After a weekend off from conference play, the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team will go back to work, concentrating on next weekend’s crucial matchup against St. Cloud State. Head coach Mike Eaves addressed the media Monday on the topics of the weekend series against St. Cloud State, the bye week, lineup changes and goal scoring.
The series against St. Cloud
The series against the No. 8 Huskies is a rematch of a series played in St. Cloud earlier this year.
“We can control our own destiny by playing well and getting points,” Eaves said. “I think there is a little extra incentive because of what happened at the beginning of the year.”
In October, the Badgers were swept by the Huskies in St. Cloud 2-1 and 3-1.
“We went in there and lost two games that we felt, looking at the tape, that had we been able to put the puck in the net, we could have had different results,” Eaves said. “Both teams are playing well. Watching video of St. Cloud, they are doing a lot of good things. They work extremely hard. Their system play looks pretty tight and they are getting some good goaltending. It’s going to be a great weekend of hockey in Madison.”
Junior goalie Bernd Brückler had 43 total saves in the two games against the Huskies. Freshman forwards Jake Dowell and Andrew Joudrey each had a goal during the series.
After a grueling schedule over the past couple months, the Badgers had a bye week last weekend.
“Hopefully, what this bye week has done is given the chance to rejuvenate some energy. Recreation is really a subliminal term for recreating energy. I’ve hoped that they’ve [done] that this week,” Eaves said. “They had their little tournament game that was very competitive, from what I hear. Later in the week — Thursday, Friday, Saturday — they had time to rest and recover. I think we’ll know today when we get out on the ice; I think we’ll have their energy and their attention because they haven’t played. We should have three, four real good days of practice here that will help us set up for the rest of the year.”
The lineups that Eaves and the assistant coaches have set up for the season have worked well.
“I think right now after coming off a weekend that we had, we are going to leave everything pretty much intact in terms of defense pairings and lines,” Eaves said. “It goes from game to game based on how people perform and if we have good chemistry with our lines.”
He continued, “Offensively, last weekend, we were pleased with the offense we received. So this weekend, if we are getting scoring chances and we are scoring, it will remain the same. If not, as a coaching staff, it is our job to juggle things around and try to get that stimulated.”
Finding goal scoring
Goal scoring has been a problem throughout the year for Eaves’ young team. “Goal scoring will be a challenge for this particular group of kids,” Eaves said. “We have a couple of kids that have a little magic, but we don’t have an abundance of kids that have magic.”
Some of that magic comes from freshman forward Robbie Earl, who scored four goals in Wisconsin’s series with North Dakota.
“[Goal scoring is] something you don’t teach,” Eaves said. “This past weekend, we get some great performances from some people and we score nine goals in two games. We hadn’t done that in a long time. So, hopefully we will have that flow back a little bit and we’ll ride this wave for a little while.”
Two weekends ago, the Badgers had a surprise weekend sweep of the then-No. 1-ranked team in the nation, North Dakota. The Badgers won 4-3 in overtime and 5-2 the following night. With that shocking sweep, the Badgers rose to No. 7 in the nation.
Wisconsin (11-6-5, 17-9-6) is currently tied for third place in the WCHA with St. Cloud.
The Badgers and the Huskies will play Feb. 20 and 21 at the Kohl Center. Both games have a 7:05 p.m. start.
“The beginning of the playoffs start right now,” Eaves said. “If you want to take a look at it, each week represents one round of the playoffs up to the end of the season … we’ll focus on what we can control and that’s every Friday, Saturday night for the next three weeks.”