January 24, 2007
Madison, WI (CSTV U-WIRE) -- Senior goaltender Brian Elliott's numbers are down, but UW is dead last in scoring offensive in the WCHA. (Christopher Guess/The Daily Cardinal)With six Western Collegiate Hockey Association series remaining before the post season begins, UW head coach Mike Eaves is looking to establish some momentum beginning this weekend in a series against Minnesota State. Offering a new team philosophy, Eaves called Friday night's match-up "the most important game of the year" in his weekly press conference Monday.
It is part of UW's new mindset, which Eaves outlined last week when he said the Badgers would have to change tack and approach each game as the most pivotal of the season, which has been anything but steady to date.
"The Friday game is the most important of the year," Eaves said. "Saturday's game will be the most important of the year. And that'll be the trumpet sound all the way to the end."
It is an approach the Badgers (7-8-1 WCHA, 10-12-2 overall) would be well-advised to take heading into their home set against Minnesota State, ranked ninth out of the 10 WCHA teams. UW enters the weekend in sixth place in the conference, despite having played the fewest games.
The Badgers had last weekend off and have been regrouping after an emotional series against Minnesota, the top team in the nation. In team meetings last week, Eaves discussed the day-to-day and grand scheme of the season's home stretch.
"We started with the big picture," he said. "We took a realistic look of what we thought we needed to do to get to where we wanted to be. So we stepped back and took a look at those kind of things. And then it's right back to the micro part of it, where we say, 'Okay, on a day-to-day basis, what are the things that we need to do to ensure us that we give ourselves the best chance of getting to that big picture?'"
For a team that has been hobbled by injuries and inconsistent play all year-the Badgers' longest winning streak this season is three games-that big picture involves playing well enough to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament, to begin in late March.
If the tournament were to begin today, UW would find itself on the outside looking in on the 16-team bracket. Six automatic bids are given to the conference victors, and the remaining ten schools are selected using a system called the Pairwise Comparisons. It takes into account four factors: Ratings Percentage Index, Record vs. "Teams Under Consideration" (top 25 in RPI), Record vs. Common Opponents, and Head-to-Head record.
Asked about the team's current standing (No. 18) in the Pairwise Comparisons, Eaves said it was a point of emphasis. "That's one of the things we present so they truly understand," Eaves noted. "So I think we present it in a motivating way, but also in a very realistic way so they truly understand how these games mean something very, very valuable. Now that we're just on the outside and knowing what's at stake, that becomes a motivating point."
(C) 2007 The Daily Cardinal via CSTV U-WIRE