Nothing says “time for some re-evaluation” quite like a humiliating 8-1 defeat at the hands of your hated rivals. And make no mistake, that’s exactly what Saturday’s blowout loss to the Minnesota Golden Gophers said to Wisconsin men’s hockey head coach Mike Eaves.
“I think coming in, you know, we were very accountable, we were very hard, we were trying to establish who we were as a staff, and I think that over the course of the year, I changed and tried to adapt almost to a fault,” Eaves said. “I’m at a point right now that, you know what, I’ve got to go back to who I truly am, because I backed off. In all reality, I have backed off.”
As difficult as it is to envision the hard-nosed Eaves going soft on his players (and, as he said, that might be a “relative term”), he feels this has been the case.
“We’ve cut back practices,” Eaves noted. “I think that I have been, in my demeanor with the team, a little less forceful than I normally would have, [thinking that] maybe this team can’t handle it, but you know what? [I’m] doing them a disservice by doing that.”
The bottom line, in Eaves’ opinion, is that the Badgers (4-15-3 WCHA, 10-19-3 overall) simply need to give more than they have thus far.
A good, solid effort won’t get it done for Wisconsin against Minnesota or Colorado College, and anything less results in a disaster like Saturday night. The only way the team can hope to contend against upper-echelon clubs is by putting out 110 percent.
Eaves admitted as much.
“Definitely, talent is one thing that [teams like Minnesota or Colorado College] have more than we do at this time, and for us to compete, we have to overachieve,” Eaves said.
Eaves and his staff have maintained all year that they’ve been happy with the effort they’ve seen, if not the results, but the coach seemed considerably less satisfied following the weekend set against Minnesota.
“I’ve got to get back in my saddle,” Eaves said. “Part of what we’re going to talk about as a team is, ‘You know what, fellas? I’m turning up the heat. We’re going to train harder, and we’re going to hold you accountable. You know what to do. We’re not going to back off at all.’”
In other words, don’t expect too many light practices in the near future.
“We were embarrassed [against Minnesota], and we need to address that,” Eaves said.
Address it Eaves’ way, that is, which means, “strap it on, and we’re going to skate for a while.”
“[The players] should almost expect that,” Eaves said. “I would expect it as a player, coming from where I came from, and the way I felt that a coach would react to the same situation.”
And if there was one thing Eaves made abundantly clear, it’s that he plans on doing things his way the rest of the season.
“You go back to who you are and what you’ve done to be successful,” Eaves said.
“I know when I look at who I am as a man and as a coach, I’ve got to go back to that. As Shakespeare said, ‘To thine own self be true.’”