Coming off its second bye week of the young season, Wisconsin men's hockey head coach Mike Eaves has been switching things up at practice as his team prepares for its first-ever road series at No. 8 Miami (6-3-1).
"It's a challenge for a coaching staff to keep the kids engaged and interested and trying to change it up," Eaves said. "They're looking around the country, everybody's playing right now. We're just controlling the things we can, doing things that are pushing our kids in practice, trying to get them game ready."
The No. 12 Badgers (3-2-1) need to take advantage of their playing time while they can, as they are in the midst of a month-and-a-half long stretch without consecutive weekends of play.
Eaves says his players are desperate for ice time - playing just two games in almost a month will do that - and they have been doing their best to keep each other focused with so much down time.
"They want to get in games. We'll do days where they just compete against each other and keep the competition and try to keep the energy level up. And as close to a game as you can."
Expected to return for Wisconsin is junior goaltender Joel Rumpel, who has missed his team's last four games after suffering a sprained left ankle.
"He's coming along good," Eaves said. "If things would go accordingly, he would probably get a game this weekend. If he has the type of week that I hope he has out there."
The Badgers have had troubles in net during Rumpel's absence. Landon Peterson has started four straight games for the first time in his UW career, and the results we decidedly mixed.
After giving up 13 goals in two games against Boston College and Boston University, the junior rebounded to allow just four goals in his team's two-game series with Lake Superior State.
One player that Eaves made special note of was Tyler Barnes. The senior forward has four assists in his last two games and is tied for second place on the Badgers with seven points in eight games.
"He's off to a good start, but his confidence is the way he carries himself on the
ice" Eaves said. "He's strong on his skates and knows it. So he goes into a confrontation like there's a level like I'm going to win this battle. I expect to win this battle, and then I'm going to make this happen."
The Badgers have already had several chances to see where they at as a team this season, as this weekend will provide them with another measuring stick-type series against a top ten team on the road.
"[Miami] plays an up-tempo style with skill and they have good goaltending and their specialty teams are good," he said. "Again, it will be a real good marker of where we're at."
"The key for us this weekend is that first 20 minutes. I think that we should react better because we've got some games under our belt. Surviving that first 20 and getting into the small space at that tempo will be a test for us right away."