Those five words were stated profoundly by UW head coach Mike Eaves, quickly turning all the negatives from UW's 4-2 loss to Michigan Tech into a positive.
The score of Friday night's game was deceiving, as Wisconsin played with integrity and a sense of togetherness. Hockey is not just defined by winning or losing. It is characterized by how well a team plays together though the course of a game and a season. A team can only win when every player works with one another, as if they were one single entity.
Only four weeks into the season, these Badgers has so much heart and will to win that the final outcome is an after thought.
Wisconsin came off a bye week and Michigan Tech came off of a high from beating then-No.1 North Dakota last Friday. The shock of the Huskies beating the Sioux was still the buzz around the nation and surrounding the Wisconsin series. Once again, it seemed like the Badgers were the underdogs.
"Everyone came in ready," said freshman Kyle Turris, who felt the team was as prepared this weekend as they had been all season. "We kept working and kept moving our feet for the most part. We kept working hard to make chances for ourselves. Our hard work could have pulled us through but we couldn't vary some of the chances and we will get some more tomorrow night."
The Kohl Center erupted when senior defenseman Kyle Klubertanz scored his sixth goal of the season in the opening five minutes. As the first period continued, two crucial penalties were called on the Badgers and created power play opportunities that the Huskies capitalized on both times.
"We got the type of start that we wanted in the first period, we were up 1-0," Eaves said. "Then they go on the power play and get two shots that our goalie doesn't see and go in and next thing its 2-1."
Last Friday, Michigan Tech out skated and out scored the best team in the nation, showing that the Huskies are a highly competitive, veteran team. The Huskies goalie, Michael-Lee Teslak is the reason Michigan Tech has high hopes for its 2007-08 season. Teslak even earned the respect of the Kohl Center crowd, as two of his 30 saves earned the praise of the Wisconsin crowd – one by lifting his leg in the air just enough to deflect the puck and the second when denying Brendan Smith on a wide-open net.
"We knew they he going to be a good goaltender …the goaltender is one of their strengths," Eaves said. "He made some key saves (and) it was a factor in the game."
In the other crease, UW's Shane Connelly played just as solid a game as Teslak, stopping 23 shots. Of the three goals he allowed, however, two were the result of being screened by his defenseman and the other was due to no defensive help, resulting in a coast-to-coast goal. Michigan Tech's offense did not win the game as much as Teslak and its defense did. Tech hustled and kept up intensity the entire game, but it also helped to have Teslak on their side.
The young Wisconsin team played a solid game Friday night, but it was a case of the pucks not finding the net. They didn't lose because they dropped the puck or not communicating well on the ice, but because Michigan Tech was blessed with an amazing goalie that was on his game Friday night.
"He made some good saves to keep them in it and at key times, it wasn't anything too outstanding," junior Ben Street said, who played in the amateur leagues with Teslak. "He just played solid and made all the saves he needed to make and we probably didn't test him enough as we should have. That will be our game plan for tomorrow night."
It was evident from 12,201 in attendance that the Badgers never game up and in that is what makes a championship team, as perseverance is what makes a winner. The young Wisconsin team needs these games to grow as a team; having the taste of losing in their mouths will help fuel a drive for success.
There are negatives that can be pointed out about Friday night's loss, but positives bring about change. Failure is not an option for this youthful team and they have less than 24 hours to turn failure into success.
"The best thing about today is we get a chance to play tomorrow," Eaves said.