Wisconsin hopes to stay strong after Classic

first_imgView Gallery (2 Photos)Two days later, the Culver’s Camp Randall Hockey Classic remained the focus of Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves’ weekly Monday press conference.Following the Badgers’ 3-2 win over Michigan Saturday at the Culver’s Camp Randall Hockey Classic, Eaves talked about the importance of the game to the players.Perhaps more importantly, Eaves stressed the importance of avoiding a letdown following an exciting game on Saturday. With many family members in attendance, Eaves noted “a lot of energy was given, and we need to conserve some of that.”“If and when we do this kind of event again, one of the things we might do is take a page from the football team’s book and get our guys in a hotel room,” Eaves said.In order to help conserve some of this energy, the Badgers were given a day off from their usual practice routine. Coming back to practice Tuesday, Eaves believes a lighter practice will be beneficial to the team.“We’ll come on the ice and do some small area games that will be fun for them,” Eaves said.Looking to stay fresh at practice and continue their improved play from Saturday will be freshmen Justin Schultz and John Ramage.With concerns about freshmen fading down the stretch, Eaves said he was pleased with the play of Schultz, especially on the power play.“He was sharp,” Eaves said of Schultz. “He was making good decisions and he was decisive.”Regarding Ramage, Eaves said he believed the freshman defenseman has hit and moved past the “rookie wall” at this point.“With the world juniors, I think he has run into it a little bit,” Eaves said. “But I think this game will energize him, and we’ll move past that.”Over the past six games before the Classic, the Badgers faced a tough stretch of highly ranked opponents in Colorado College, Denver and Minnesota-Duluth.With that stretch behind them and the remaining schedule including several unranked teams, Eaves realized the potential for a letdown but did not believe it will be a factor for his players.“With so much at stake, I don’t think it’s going to be hard,” Eaves said of motivating his team.Eaves also talked about his team’s season as a series of “intermediate goals” to focus on and sees focusing on the team’s next goal as the most important thing.“This was an intermediate goal to win this game and we’ve got that,” Eaves said. “So lets take a closer look at where we’re at, what we need to do and what we need to focus on so that we can be effective in getting to our next intermediate goal.”When asked about his team’s goals, Eaves pointed to the MacNaughton Cup, awarded annually to the WCHA regular season conference champion, as “probably the one that’s most eminent right now.”Eaves is aware, however, that the road will not be an easy one for the Badgers as competition for the top spot in the conference has proven to be a close race.“Last year we had three teams that were vying at this time,” Eaves said. “Now we have five, six maybe, that are going to be vying to get that conference championship.”A crucial element to achieving their goals will be several of the players on the Badgers’ roster that have been included as recent candidates for the Hobey Baker Award, which is awarded annually to college hockey’s most outstanding player.While junior Brendan Smith has received the majority of the attention, several other Badgers, including Derek Stepan and Blake Geoffrion, could make cases for themselves coming into the end of the regular season.While Eaves realizes having several candidates on the roster may take attention away from any one particular player, Eaves acknowledges it as “a nice problem to have.” But as buzz around the country heats up, Eaves is hoping the attention won’t get to Smith.“Our reminder to Brendan will be very much like our reminder to our team,” he said. “If you focus on the process and what you need to do as a player, game in and game out, then you have a chance to win that.”As the Badgers look forward to hosting Minnesota State this weekend at the Kohl Center, Eaves will look for his team to find that focus and carry it through the end of their season.last_img

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