Audio file (5:20)
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Are you surprised at all by how the Final Five looks, the five teams remaining in there?
“Yes and no, first because I think that that answer brings into effect at how we’ve always talked how good the WCHA is and those teams battling it out and the parity. And so on one hand, you could kind of base on how they ended up the season, but knowing it’s a fresh start and how close everybody is in terms of being able to play against each other, that you’re not totally surprised by the fact that there were some upsets.”
Mike, you haven’t played North Dakota for quite awhile. And those freshmen are a little bit older now too. Just a scouting report on the Fighting Sioux and what do you think of that match-up.
“A different team than we played, a much younger team in the early part of the year. They’ve been through a lot of wars now. They’re a better team. Their scoring is very well-balanced. And we’re, as (women’s hockey coach) Mark (Johnson) talked about, we’re going to have to have our ‘A game’, which is what we need to have this time of year anyway.”
Mike, what insights, what relevant data is there that still holds from that series that you played against North Dakota right now? Is there anything that you can go back and look at that would carry over or is this a clean slate?
“Clean slate, without question, for two reasons. A, the fact it was so long ago and they had so many kids that that was really maybe one of their first big series. And B, the fact that it’s a new season and things are starting off square, at square one with it being the playoffs and such. So it really is, we’re facing a totally new North Dakota team than we faced earlier.”
One thing that maybe carries over from last year when you played them at the Final Five is (goalie) Jordan Parise and he seems to be playing pretty well just looking from the numbers and what you’ve been able to gather from those. But, I mean, that’s a kind of thing that can trip up a team obviously. It happened to you guys. You got a lot of shots on him last year. Anything that you hope to take out of that from last year to look at it differently and how we can get at this guy maybe a little bit?
“Well, I remember looking at that game last year. I mean, our scoring chances were clearly in our favor. We did a lot of good things. We couldn’t score. We hit the post, Joe Pavelski right off a face-off, so we’d like to eliminate those posts. But when a goaltender is playing hot, the things that we need to do are still get traffic in front of him and make his job of finding that puck difficult.”
Mike, do you know definitively if Andrew is going to be available?
Can you talk about what you’ve seen of Jack Skille and how maybe his growth and confidence has let him be able to play his game a little bit more, a little more of a power game than just going for the net? It seems like these last few weeks maybe he’s more confident and is turning that around.
“His confidence level is high. And when he’s confident, the thing that correlates with that is his ability to move his feet. When his feet are moving, he’s very good. And I think that that confidence, feet-moving, all go hand-in-hand, and that’s what we’ve seen recently from Jack.”
With Joudrey, do you have to work him in gradually or is he going to be at full speed? And with him back, what does he bring to your team?
“Well, the fact, is in context of the fact that if we needed him on Sunday, he might have been able to play. I think his leg, his conditioning, he’s been doing some things that indicated that he was ready to play. And in a situation like that, you don’t like to put a young man in, but if you feel he’s going to help you win a third game, which is a big game, we might have used him. But so now this week he’ll have time to practice, get in some contact, and he’ll be ready to go by this weekend.
“What he gives our team is he gives us a real, we talked about balance before. Andrew is a very balanced player. There are times that we wish he was more offensive and had that swagger, but at the same time, he can go out there and the guys on the ice he can just settle down with his, he plays like a coach. He thinks like a coach in terms of understanding what’s going on. And so having him out there, he’ll give us that element again.”
(Considering) where you were in Mankato two weeks ago, the state of your team two weeks ago. These last two weekends, is it about as good as you could have hoped for as far as getting ready for the stages that are coming up next and being, you know, getting a little better each weekend and maybe, you know, from this weekend to next weekend even?
“Yes, without question. It’s the best-case scenario for us, winning, getting better in increments, building our confidence, because, as we’ve talked about, going through this, you don’t turn it around in a weekend. You don’t turn it around in a week of practice. It’s been a gradual process. Talk about turning that ship back around, it takes time for it to come around and we’re seeing that with our group right now.”