first_imgRight winger Tyler Barnes scored two goals in Wisconsin’s Friday night’s 5-4 loss to Nebraska-Omaha. Barnes leads the Badgers this season with five goals through eight games.[/media-credit]After scoring 19 goals in the past two weeks, drive and ambition are simply not issues for the Wisconsin men’s hockey team.After splitting a penalty-packed, high-scoring series against Nebraska-Omaha head coach Mike Eaves addressed the media in his weekly Monday press conference, assuring that at the close of the first month of the season, effort is not a concern.“Not at all,” Eaves said. “I think that was an indication that we got from our strength coach Jim Snider from what he said this summer. He felt never he had to go to the whip. … He said these guys just naturally push themselves.”The effort has already translated into goals for Wisconsin. The Badgers have scored 28 times this season off of 191 shot attempts. Their opponents average about 10 more shots per game but have scored three less goals.At the beginning of the season, Eaves admittedly expected scoring to be more difficult for his team.“The one thing that came up with the coaching staff the last two weekends is that we can put the puck in the net,” Eaves said. “That’s been fun to see.“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. We found some nice things. We scored a big time goal this Saturday. … Those are the things that you see at the next level.”Despite its success finding the net, Wisconsin struggled to kill penalties against Nebraska-Omaha, allowing the Mavericks to score six power play goals throughout the series. With a combined total of 33 penalties in the two games, the Badgers went on the penalty kill 17 times.Eaves explained that penalty killing cannot be reproduced in practice to the same standard as a game atmosphere. As a result, it is difficult to improve play short one skater without game experience.“I think that our penalty killing is an area that still needs improvement,” Eaves said. “We talked about it again this morning. We looked at the reasons as to why – I think we’re in a little bit of a funk. I’ve never seen so many blocked shots end up on their sticks with open net shots before in my life.”The penalty kill was not Wisconsin’s only major issue this weekend. For the first time this season, Eaves’ team had to protect a 3-0 lead, twice. Friday night, UW couldn’t hold on, losing 5-4. Saturday, it had better success, winning 6-3.As Friday was the first time the Badgers faced such a situation this season, it was something unfamiliar.“It’s really an emotional thing,” Eaves said. “It’s about playing with poise and confidence and really understanding what the situation of the game is and how to execute in that.”With their struggles and successes, the Badgers sit at an even 4-4-0, 3-3-0 WCHA record one month into the season. It is a mark that some consider to have exceeded the expectations for such a young team.But Eaves does not want to put any expectations or limits on his team; he just wants to continue to watch it grow.“I really think that with a young team, it’s hard to put expectations on a team,” Eaves said. “I think 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. Maybe for the second half of the season, we’ll see how we feel, and we can set better parameters.“They’re still trying to get their feet underneath them in so many areas that they’re just going out there playing as hard as they can and hoping that the things that they do are the right things to do.”One skater in particular epitomizes Wisconsin’s circumstance after its first four games. Sophomore forward Tyler Barnes leads the Badgers with five goals, the majority of which have come on Friday nights.According to Eaves, Barnes has great Friday nights but just does not play to the same level on Saturdays.“Well if we can get Tyler Barnes to play Saturday like he does Friday, we’ll have something special,” Eaves said. “On Friday, he’s been dynamite. He leads our team in stats and production. Saturday night, he still hasn’t gone to that next level. … I think Tyler has aspirations of playing at the next level, which one of the definitions of being a professional athlete other than being paid is that you’re consistent day in and day out.”last_img

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