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Friday, April 19, 2024
Barnes

Tyler Barnes has a seven-game point streak, but Mike Eaves says he is looking for consistency from the sophomore forward.

First month encouraging for young Badgers team

According to head coach Mike Eaves, if you had told him at the beginning of the season that his young Wisconsin men’s hockey team (3-3 WCHA, 4-4 overall) would be .500 at the end of the season’s first month, he would have taken it, and that is exactly where the Badgers find themselves after their first four weekends of play.

At the start of this year not many would have predicted Wisconsin  would be sitting where it is at this point, but this young team has done its best to prove its doubters wrong and finds itself tied for third place in the WCHA after one month of play.

As Eaves pointed out, people shouldn’t have been so quick to judge this year’s Wisconsin team because young groups are unknowns and therefore hard to predict.

“I really think that with a young team it’s hard to put an expectation on a team,” Eaves said. “It’s better to have an open mind, don’t limit them and don’t put low parameters on them.”

“As we go along we’ll see how they grow and maybe for the second half of the season, once we have a better feel, we can set better parameters.”

But, Eaves is the first to point out that, despite the Badgers’ promising start, this young group still has plenty it can improve on, specifically mentioning the team’s penalty kill, which allowed four power-play goals to Nebraska-Omaha in Wisconsin’s 5-4 loss to the Mavericks this past Friday.

“We talked about [the penalty kill] again this morning,” Eaves said. “We looked to the reasons as to why I think we’re in a bit of a funk. We’re trying a lot of different people […] it’s an area that we know we have to get better. We’re doing some things. We just need to shore it up a little bit.”

For the first time this season, Wisconsin was faced with maintaining leads this past weekend. Against Nebraska-Omaha, the Badgers built two 3-0 leads. In the first game they couldn’t hold it and lost, and while they won Saturday, they allowed the Mavericks to creep back into the game. Holding leads is a new mindset for a Wisconsin team that has usually found itself having to come back in most games this year, and Eaves said it’s something the team can’t learn by simply practicing.

“It’s really an emotional thing,” Eaves said of the ability to hold leads. “It’s about playing with poise and confidence and understanding what the situation in the game is and how to execute in that. So a little bit in practice helps, but it ultimately comes down to games.”

One thing Eaves and his coaching staff have been impressed by the past couple of weekends has been the Badgers’ scoring outburst. There were questions about the Badgers’ offensive ability after they managed just eight goals through their first four games, but in the four games since—in games against WCHA rivals North Dakota and Nebraska-Omaha no less—Wisconsin’s offense has broken out, lighting the lamp 20 times.

Maybe more impressive than the goal-scoring numbers themselves is the fact that 13 different players have scored the 20 goals Wisconsin has tallied in its past four contests. After losing three of their top five scorers from last season the Badgers knew they would have to find new sources of offense, and Eaves said that is had been encouraging to see that come to fruition the past couple of weekends.

“We said at the beginning as a projection that we’d have to have scoring by committee because we didn’t have anything really proven coming back to a high degree and we found some nice things, Eaves said."

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”So we’re seeing things we really like and things we can build on.”

One player leading the Badgers’ goal scoring charge has been sophomore forward Tyler Barnes. He is currently riding a seven-game point streak, and in the past four games he has tallied two goals and three assists. But, Eaves is still looking for consistency from Barnes.

“If we can get Tyler Barnes to play Saturday like he does Friday we’ll have something special,” Eaves said. “He still hasn’t gone to that next level of consistency, so we’re going to continue to push. We pointed that out.”

“Tyler has aspirations of playing at the next level,” Eaves added, “and one of the definitions of playing at the next level, and one of the definitions of being a professional athlete is the fact that you’re consistent day in and day out, and that’s something Tyler is aware of, and we’re going to continue to push him to get there.”

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