Eaves, UW hoping to build on victory

first_imgKRIS UGARRIZA/Herald photoIt took eight games, but the Wisconsin men’s hockey team finally has its first win of the season after beating North Dakota 5-2 on Saturday in Grand Forks.“I do know that, like somebody said, we got the monkey off our back and confidence in our pocket,” UW head coach Mike Eaves said in his press conference Monday. “We come to the ice today with that, and it’ll be interesting to see where we’re at. I’m interested to get on the ice. Right now, we want to build on that. We can’t forget the fact that in order to do that, we have to continue to do the basics and that’s to work hard and continue to get better in all areas.”One of the players instrumental in securing the Badgers their first victory was senior forward Tom Gorowsky, who notched two goals Saturday night against the Sioux — including the eventual game-winner in the third period.“We put him with a couple guys that seem to complement each other, and he was able to produce,” Eaves said. “It was nice to see him all smiles on Saturday because that’s what this young man wants to do is help his team win, and he was able to do that.”The two goals for Gorowsky, a seldom-used forward, matched his season total from a year ago. He was assisted by Jamie McBain and Sean Dolan on his first goal, and scored the second one unassisted while playing on a line with Dolan and John Mitchell.Eaves expects those three to continue to play together when Michigan Tech comes to town this weekend for a two-game series.“Based on last week, he’s going to keep playing with those young men,” Eaves said. “We’ll see if he can continue that and help us continue growing in the way we are.”Defense tightens upIn the first six games of the season, the Badgers allowed their opponent to score five or more goals in every game except for a 2-2 tie against the Minnesota Golden Gophers last weekend. At North Dakota, however, UW let in a total of five on the weekend in a 3-2 loss and 5-2 win. The series dropped Wisconsin’s goals per game average to 4.38, still last in the WCHA.But with the series split, Eaves saw his team mature on the defensive side of the puck.“I think it’s a big step for everybody,” Eaves said. “I think our goaltending, I think defense and forwards working together. The one thing that’s been constant is our ability and our willingness to block shots. That’s been there.“I thought our young defensemen are finally figuring out, ‘You know what, if I don’t have a play, it’s OK to shoot it off the glass and get it out and have that next zone mentality.’ There are guys in the National Hockey League, that’s how they make their living doing that. So I think it’s a combination of everybody doing their part better.”Eaves mentioned the play of senior goaltender Shane Connelly, who stopped 42 North Dakota shots Friday and 31 shots Saturday in his first victory of the season.“Obviously, there’s been times when he’s been brilliant and then there’s some times he’d like some goals back,” Eaves said of Connelly.The UW coach still knows his young blueliners have room for improvement, and that starts with taking a more defensive approach to playing the puck.“I think for a guy like young Jake Gardiner, I think he’s been caught a couple times. He’s an offensive guy,” Eaves said. “Especially on our power play, he’s been cheating towards the offensive side, and it’s burned him a couple times and one of the reasons why we’ve given up a couple short-handed goals. … All of the guys kind of like it. They have to make those decisions. That comes from experience.”Schedule a non-factorWisconsin is coming off arguably its hardest stretch of the 2008-09 schedule, facing ranked opponents in Boston College, New Hampshire, Denver, Minnesota and North Dakota in its first eight games. When the Badgers face the 2-4-0 Michigan Tech Huskies Friday and Saturday, it will be the first series all year against an unranked foe.For Eaves, though, that won’t affect how his team prepares for the weekend. “Well A, Michigan Tech, if we don’t match their heart, we’ll be in trouble. And B, we are in no position to take it easy with one win. That is surely the message that will be coming from the coaches and hopefully the leadership corps.”last_img

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