UW looks to break ice, pick up win

first_imgJAKE NAUGHTON/Herald photoLooking down on the bench last Saturday night in EastLansing, Mich., players were excited, attentive and — most importantly — incharge.According to UW head coach Mike Eaves, it was the first suchtime this season that he hasn’t needed to, let alone felt the urge to lecturehis team to get it together; they were doing it on their own.”Our guys had the reins, they were in control on the bench,they were holding each other accountable; it was like a team that was startingto get it and come together,” Eaves said.Although the end result was a 4-4 tie with Michigan State,extending Wisconsin’s winless streak to five games, Eaves believes the sign ofmaturation on the part of his players may be an indication of play to come.”The guys are starting to take the team over in terms of itbeing their team; it’s how they held each other accountable that I think is ahealthy sign for the group,” Eaves said. “After all, they have to win the game,not the coaches.”No. 13 Wisconsin (5-6-1, 2-4 WCHA) will get its chance tocarry over the newfound energy from Saturday when it returns to the Kohl Centerand conference play Friday against No. 10 St. Cloud State (7-3-2, 3-2-1).During the winless streak, the Badgers have faced an endlessbarrage of talented opponents from then-No. 3 North Dakota to No. 2 Michigan.That, and the fact that his team is so young, have contributed to UW’sstruggles in the win column, according to Eaves.”This year’s winless streak is a little bit about our youth,who we’re playing — because it’s an awful tough schedule — and us trying to putthe kids in the deep end in the early part of the season,” he said.UW forward Ben Street also gets the feeling that no matterhow close the team comes to turning the season around, something bad happens,be it a bad rebound or a shot hitting pipe.”It has just been one of those things where every mistakewe’ve made has cost us, and every chance we get, or a lot of chances we get, aren’tpaying off for us,” he said.Scoring hasn’t been a problem. The Badgers have recorded 43goals through 12 games, 19 more than they had at this point in the season lastyear.No, the struggles have come from the defensive end — whathas been UW’s strength over the past five seasons. In the last five games,Wisconsin has allowed 20 goals.Eaves attributes the tremendous acquisition of youth to theanomaly.”Who knew that when the schedule was given to us that we’dbe so young this year through graduation and guys turning pro?” said Eaves, whois coaching a team where 13 underclassmen see significant playing time. “We’reas young as we’ve ever been.”Like Wisconsin, St. Cloud State is offense-oriented. It isled by the trio of Ryan Lasch, Garrett Roe and Andreas Nodl. Lasch and Roe bothhave 20 points this season, good for second in the nation. Add in Nodl, and thefirst line forwards have scored 52 points in 12 games this season.”They have guys that can move the puck and skate, and that’swhat their strength is,” Eaves said. “If those guys are going then they’ll beeffective.”But the Badgers aren’t worried about what the Huskiesplayers can do. Instead, they’re focusing on improvement and sticking to theirguns.”We’ve got to play our own game; we can’t get caught playinginto what the other team is doing, which is kind of what we’ve done lately,”Street said. “I think we’ve done some good things — we’ve got a lot of thingsto learn as well — but we’re making steps.”Turris testedWisconsin’s top recruit and No. 3 overall pick in the 2007NHL Entry Draft Kyle Turris started off the season the way everyone expected: Hescored five goals and led the nation with 12 points through Wisconsin’s firstfour games.But as he soon found out, teams like Ohio State and RobertMorris aren’t of the same caliber as WCHA teams.In the past eight games, he has been held scoreless and hasjust three points.”He got off to a really nice start his first weekend andthen against Robert Morris — he has all kinds of confidence that has beengained because of his production — and then, all of a sudden, he gets hammered(by the WCHA) and he’s going, ‘Where did this come from?'” Eaves said.”Confidence drops and he has to work through it for the first time.”Turris isn’t the only highly acclaimed hockey player atWisconsin to have undergone a time of many questions and few answers. JoePavelski, now of the San Jose Sharks, felt the same way when he was a Badger.”They all go through (a rough learning curve),” Eaves said.”I mean guys at the next level, real good players, Jaromir Jagr, were [like] ‘What’sgoing on?’ They were looking for answers.”According to Eaves, if Turris can control the things in hislife that are controllable like eating right and practicing hard, it will comewith time.”A lot of times how they work through that mentally is howlong they’ll stay in that slump,” he said.last_img

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