Eaves content with depleted UW squad

first_imgBRYAN FAUST/Herald PhotoThe defending national champion Wisconsin men’s hockey team suffered a letdown in its first home game of the year Friday night. After the unveiling of the national championship banner, the Badgers lost not only the game, but three players to injury.In the wake of these events, it would have been easy for UW head coach Mike Eaves and his players to get down on themselves and one another. Instead, Wisconsin rebounded to grind out a 1-0 victory Saturday night.”There might be a silver lining in that,” Eaves said of the injury situation. “It really highlighted the fact of the way we need to play. We were maybe a little short-handed on talent and natural ability, but everybody picked up a piece of the rope and carried it, and we played closer to the identity that we want to have, that we need to have as a team.”Friday’s injuries to Jack Skille, Ross Carlson and Kyle Klubertanz created an opportunity for some of the reserves to make an impact. Their efforts were rewarded in Saturday’s victory and their performances did not go unnoticed by their head coach.”It’s a huge opportunity for all these young people,” Eaves said. “Even the guys that are returning, it gives them more of a responsibility. Rather than being the understudies, they’re going to be the stars. They’ve got to get out there and be the lead role. It’s a big, big chance for them to find out about themselves, and us as a coaching staff.”A huge part of the result Saturday night was the contribution of the UW freshmen. In particular, the coaching staff was impressed with the play of freshman forward John Mitchell.”John had a couple of great scoring chances after we got the 1-0 lead,” Eaves said. “He had a physical presence on the ice that was really encouraging to see. He had an opportunity and took advantage of it.”Eaves echoes these sentiments to the entire group of rookie players in their first series at the Kohl Center.”At one time or another, I think all the freshmen did some good things, and they got the butterflies out of their systems,” he said. “It’s funny when you look in their eyes they go through a process of having to believe in themselves because I think once that happens they’ll even play to a higher level.”Elliott records 2nd shutout in 3 gamesWhile the Badger reserves deserve much of the credit for the win Saturday, perhaps the biggest reason for Wisconsin’s success this weekend was their senior goalkeeper, Brian Elliott.Elliott earned his 2nd shutout of the season while recording 27 saves, and his and the rest of the team’s performances Saturday may very well be a preview of the type of hockey that the Badgers will rely on all season.”We know that we have tremendous goaltending and a veteran defense,” Eaves said. “We as a group are going to have to ‘manufacture runs’ to be offensive and we are going to have to play like we did Saturday night.”We have to play at that intensity level for us to have an opportunity to win,” Eaves continued. “I think that’s going to be who we have to be all year, that’s going to be our team identity.”Eaves said he’s also tremendously encouraged by his goalie’s development from last year to this year. While it remains yet to be determined if the preseason first-team All-American will live up to expectations between the pipes, he has already demonstrated the type of leadership which a quality hockey team can build upon.”The growth that we see in Brian has been the way that he carries himself off the ice and the way he deals with his teammates, especially his younger teammates, bringing them along and being the older guy in the locker room, being the leader,” Eaves said. “I don’t think you would have heard him say a ‘peep’ last year, he was still trying to establish himself.”He’s more established now, he has the respect of his teammates.”last_img