Just a little bit of wind, insisted Wisconsin men’s hockey coach Mike Eaves. That’s all his struggling team needs right now.
Eaves was in an analogizing mood Monday, following a rough two-game sweep for the Badgers at the hands of the Denver University Pioneers. In one comparison, he likened his team to a ship at sea, just trying to catch a breeze.
“When you start out in a journey on a sailboat, it’s never a direct line,” Eaves said. “You’ve got to change your course, you’ve got to change your tack in order to catch the wind so you can get to your harbor. And that’s what we’re doing right now; we’re trying to get our sail so we can catch a little wind here and get going.”
Ultimately, Eaves opined, “What [the players] are looking for right now is a little direction.”
Eaves suggested that the players, “as young men,” turn to the coaching staff for that direction.
“As coaches,” he said, “it is part of our deal to be [leaders].”
Of course, whenever the discussion turns to leadership, it also invariably involves captain Brad Winchester and assistant captains Brian Fahey and Dan Boeser. Eaves was quick to praise their work in that regard, saying, “I am happy with the communication lines,” but he did express concern that their extra duties might have affected their recent performance.
“Unfortunately,” Eaves noted, “I think that the pressure of being a captain or assistant captain is on the kids’ shoulders, and that’s a whole other element to deal with, and they feel like they are not playing as well as they would like to.”
If so, they’re hardly alone in that respect, as the Badgers (2-13-3 WCHA, 8-17-3 overall) have certainly labored of late to get their bearings. In fact, after Saturday night’s 7-1 shellacking, UW has been outscored 30-11 over its past eight games, 20-5 in its last four. While that may be a function in part of the difficult schedule the team has faced recently, there isn’t much evidence to suggest that the Badgers are making progress towards Eaves’ stated goal of playing their best hockey by March.
Eaves, analogizing further, said he looks at this season as a tennis match.
“In this case here, we make the analogy that we’re down 4-1, 5-1 in a set, and what real good athletes will do is … play that set out like it’s their last set, because what they’re trying to do is get ready for that next set, get their game going so it’s ready for the next set.
“That’s in essence what we’re doing.”
Wisconsin may be down in the set, as Eaves observed, but at least one could say it’s their serve this weekend, as they face off against the Seawolves of Alaska-Anchorage, owners of an uninspiring 0-16-6 WCHA mark.
Not that the Badgers are in any position to coast. Despite the fact that Alaska-Anchorage hasn’t managed a single win in conference play, the Seawolves — who tied UW in each of their previous two meetings in January — trail Wisconsin by only a point in the WCHA standings.
Eaves said that he felt the teams were fairly evenly matched, which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of the UW hockey program.
So what about those who think the Badgers’ ship has capsized?
“Well, those are the people we want to try to prove wrong,” Eaves said.