Week off for Wisconsin means additional preparation

first_imgJEFF SCHORFHEIDE/Herald photoDuring a busy weekend in Wisconsin athletics, the men’s hockey team was able to relax and enjoy a few days off during its bye week following a sweep of Robert Morris two weeks ago.Head coach Mike Eaves said his team took a slightly different approach in practice with the extended break to prepare for its upcoming series at Michigan Tech.”We definitely took time to step back and teach more than we would during a normal week,” Eaves said in a press conference Monday. “Because it’s early in the season, we had that luxury to take a look at some system play and stop and slow it down and work with that.”With such a young team coming off a bye, Eaves stressed the importance of repetition in practice — something he said has paid off in the past.”My memories of coming off a bye week are good memories,” Eaves said. “I think that we’ve come out at times because of the repetitions we’ve had and played textbook hockey.”With no opponent on the schedule, the Badgers chose to play themselves during the break. Two teams — a red team and a white team — faced off in a scrimmage. Internal competition was a theme during Wisconsin’s championship run two years ago, and Eaves hopes the results will be similar this time around.”The guys when we won a national championship, we had to compete hard because we weren’t the most talented team around,” Eaves said. “They recognized that, and they drove each other to practice hard so they could become the best they could. … This group is a little younger. Every day is like a game for them, and everything is new. They come out and compete.”Defensemen stepping up earlyMuch has been said so far about the team’s young talent, but three freshman defensemen have particularly stood out among the newcomers. Eaves likened Brendan Smith, Ryan McDonagh and Cody Goloubef to three former Badger defenders.”They all bring a level of talent to the table that we’ve not had with a group of defensemen before,” Eaves said. “Matt Olinger, Joe Piskula (and) Jeff Likens were very solid in their play — great skaters, physical, knew how to play defense in a lot of areas. But their natural ability with the puck is not as naturally there as it is with these three young men.”Through the team’s first four games, Smith has notched six points, while McDonagh and Goloubef have scored two apiece. Just as with any young players, however, Eaves said the freshmen still have plenty to work on.”The thing they have to continue to get better at is … the ability to have a great gap, to be fully engaged in a one-on-one situation in front of the net or in the corner, know how to handle it. These are all things we’re pressing and asking from them at a higher level,” Eaves said.Geffrion settles inAs a freshman last season, forward Blake Geffrion scored just six points in 36 games. He has already matched that total through four games, including a five-point night against Robert Morris.”I know that he’s a lot more mature … this year, just the way he carries himself,” Eaves said. “It was a tough year for him (last year) because of his expectations. I think that he’s kind of settled in and recognized, ‘OK, what kind of player am I? I need to play to my strengths.’ I think he’s done that to a higher level.”WCHA play beginsEaves’ team will begin WCHA conference play this weekend when it travels to take on Michigan Tech. The Huskies split their series last weekend with then-No. 1 North Dakota, winning 3-1 Friday but falling flat Saturday and getting shut out 6-0.For the team’s freshmen, it will be their first taste of WCHA competition, and Eaves expects a tough fight between his No. 10 Badgers and the No. 13 Huskies.”We were not surprised that they beat North Dakota,” Eaves said. “They’ll come in, they’ll give themselves a chance to win because they play hard. They play well together, they’re well-conditioned, they’re well-coached and they’ll have good goaltending. It’s going to be a classic WCHA matchup.”last_img

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