Eaves enjoying Badgers’ difficult schedule

first_imgJustin Schultz leads the Badgers with seven goals and 18 assists for a team-high 25 points. Schultz is tied for third in the nation in points.[/media-credit]With top-ranked Minnesota-Duluth visiting the Kohl Center for a two-game series this weekend, head coach Mike Eaves and the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team have worked hard to improve in practice over the last week.Following a series sweep over Mercyhurst that included 7-2 and 5-2 wins by the Badgers, Eaves said he saw many areas in which his team needed to improve, and added he used the off week to push his team.Eaves said in his Monday press conference he did see improvement during the bye week.“We felt as a coaching staff it was a productive week,” Eaves said. “We pushed each other in practice, we did a lot of competitive drills, we had high tempo drills, we covered a lot of details. I think we walk away from the rink this week feeling good about ourselves and ready to continue on this week and get ready for Duluth.”The No. 1 Bulldogs, who boast an 11-3-2 record overall, will be the fourth team ranked in the top five the Badgers will face this season. Wisconsin has already won two games against then-No.5 North Dakota, split a series against then-No.1 Minnesota and dropped both of its meetings with then-No.5 Colorado College. Facing such elite competition early in the season has given the Badgers experience in big-game situations, and growing from those experiences will be key in becoming a championship-caliber team.According to Eaves, competing against ranked teams makes his team better through a process similar to osmosis.“[Facing elite competition] brings out our best and gives us an opportunity to grow and maybe make some noise in terms of the national picture.” Eaves said.A large part of the Badgers’ solid effort to date has been the play of junior defenseman Justin Schultz. Tied with sophomore Mark Zengerle for the team lead in goals, assists and points with 7, 18 and 25, respectively, Schultz was named WCHA Defensive Player of the Week following a seven-point performance against Mercyhurst.Playing alongside Schultz in place of the injured Jake McCabe has been sophomore Frankie Simonelli, who currently sits with two goals and seven assists on the year. When McCabe went out after the fifth game of the season, Simonelli filled in seamlessly. Although it might be intimidating for some to share a line with a player of Schultz’ caliber, the chemistry developed between the two has left the coaching staff more than pleased.“Justin makes anybody on the ice with him better just because of the way he sees the game, and he competes, and his skill level,” Eaves said. “I think Frankie is going to go out there and do his thing and be steady and pass and skate and be physical in front of the net.“They’ve kind of grown a good chemistry together, and they’re feeding off of each other a little bit, so that’s been a good thing. We don’t have to rush Jake McCabe back in there with [Schultz]; we can afford to leave Frank there and see how Jake does and then go from there.”The last time a No. 1 team came to the Kohl Center, Wisconsin outplayed Minnesota, handing the Gophers their second loss of the year.Following a 2-3 start, the reigning national champion Bulldogs have now gone 12 games without losing. But after a strong two weeks of work, Eaves and the Badgers are aiming to break that streak.“Again, I think we’re a better team from the week we had,” Eaves said. “We are very aware of the areas that we need to continue to grow on; we worked at those areas this week, and I think that’s why we as a staff say we’re a better team after this week we had together.”last_img

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