Coming off its sixth bye week of the season, Wisconsin men's hockey coach Mike Eaves has been forced to get creative to keep his team motivated.
This past week, that meant taking a day off of practice and heading to the Madison Curling Club in McFarland for a day with a different winter Olympic sport.
"I think, as a coaching staff, that challenge of trying to do things that are different, that are -- keep their interest, that pushes them," Eaves said at Monday's press conference. "We had an extra day off on one sheet, went to another sheet of ice and kind of did a team-bonding sort of thing."
The ninth-ranked Badgers (13-6-1, 4-2-0 Big Ten) will get back to hockey this week as they prepare to host conference rival Ohio State in the final series of their record 12-game home stand.
The Buckeyes (11-8-1, 1-4-1 Big Ten) were swept last weekend at Minnesota, but showed promise in their 4-2 loss Saturday, jumping out to an early two goal lead before Gopher's junior Sam Warning brought his team back with a natural hat trick.
"They came out of there with a loss, but I think their confidence level -- they had a 2-0 lead, and they thought they played pretty well," Eaves said. "So they'll come in here with that in their hip pocket. That serves them well, and they'll be a tougher opponent for us because of that."
Perhaps the biggest news of the day was the announcement that sophomore center Nic Kerdiles will not play this weekend due to a shoulder injury. Eaves listed senior forward Sean Little -- who suffered a similar injury -- as "possible" to play.
The Badger coach also pointed to a pair of defensemen -- senior Joe Faust and sophomore Kevin Schulze -- who have been pleasant surprises in terms of point production along the blue line.
Faust is tied for second on the team in defensive scoring, netting a goal and nine assists in 20 games this season, this after scoring just eight points in his previous 99 games as a Badger.
Schulze has recorded the exact same stat line as Faust this winter, following his seven-point freshman season. Schulze has been especially good of late, notching seven points in his past seven games, including a four-point weekend against Michigan the last time the Badgers were on the ice.
"The fact that Joe Faust has put up the numbers he's had. He's almost tripled his point number from last year. And Kevin Schulze has had some numbers," Eaves said. "They've been putting points up, and they're playing well without the puck also. "
"They're doing nice things, and, again, that consistency level for them is key for them to go to the next level, and they're striving to do that week in and week out."
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