For any college hockey team their first road series of the season can be a big test. A team in the WCHA making their first road trip of the season, with three-quarters of their squad underclassmen, can be in for an even bigger challenge. Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves sees things different, and feels like it's an opportunity for his young squad to play with the pressure off.
"Personally, I think getting on the road for the first series is kind of a blessing in disguise," Eaves said in his Monday press conference. "I think it's good to get on the road. It's simpler."
One thing that is repeated by coaches every year is the way some of these trips, especially early in the season can bring a team together. With some kids living in dorms, and others off-campus, bringing the team together for three or four days on the road can be an opportunity to grow.
"It's a good chance for us to come together, and other than we've got to play somebody, it just happens to be in somebody else's rink," Eaves said Monday. "I think sometimes if the pressure's off, we can play a simpler game and just go have at it."
News and Notes
-- Without the presence of a high end goal scorer like Craig Smith from last season, Eaves says the Badgers are going to have to get scoring from more than one line.
"We're going to have to do it by committee, and I think that we saw some really good things. Joseph LaBate, Paape, they stepped in. I thought some of our role guys, Hartzog played a very good game, Lapic were big and strong in the corner. Keegan Meuer played well. Those guys, they didn't get any points this weekend, but they created some stuff. We're going to have to do it by committee. I think our power play is going to have to get revved up and be a major contributor if we're going to be successful, but by committee is going to be the call of the year."
-- In playing two freshmen goalies over the weekend, most were curious to see how it would play out. Eaves came away happy with how they played, but is looking for some consistency.
"Now it was good to see what they did, but there's that consistency level that has to be there weekend in, weekend out, and so what we saw was nice to see. Now, every time you get between the pipes, you've got to do it again."
-- Sophomore center Mark Zengerle has been praised for his passing ability, which is second to none in the WCHA. Unfortunately at times last year passed up open shots to force a pass. Eaves is working with his top line pivot on breaking his pass first habit.
"It's not easy. I don't think you ever break a bad habit, you just build new habits on top of that and continue to enforce what you want to do. Every athlete has the strengths and weakness and will play to them. It's just natural. So Mark's going in the right direction, and Saturday was a good example. In practice, we're seeing it more. We're trying to change a behavior. Psychologists will tell you it takes 21 days to create a new habit, and we're working at it. And Mark's taking steps, and we'll continue to try to change that behavior."
-- Overall the tone from Eaves was upbeat, and he sounded really excited about his club. In fact, he pointed out that his squad looks like they are ahead of where he had projected them to be after the first weekend.
"I think, it was interesting yesterday watching the game (tape) and being able to step back from the emotion of being behind the bench in an arena that's got 11,000 people, because we played pretty well for being such a young team. If you were to take a look at that game and, structurally, how we played our systems and such, we looked beyond our time together, and that was fun. I think the guys felt good. It was good to get a victory, because that sets them up for this week. But the fact that we looked pretty solid structurally says that the kids are catching on, and we can take some steps forward now."