Coach Mike Gabinet, junior forward Zach Jordan, and senior defenseman Lukas Buchta answered media questions as part of the “Omaha Athletics Weekly Media Availability” on Nov. 27, 2018.
Gabinet fielded questions regarding the UNO Hockey team’s series against Arizona State on Nov. 23 and 24, and the upcoming series against Colorado College Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 at Baxter Arena.
The following quotes are excerpts from the news conference. To view the press conference video in it’s entirety, click here.
ON THE UPCOMING SERIES AGAINST COLORADO COLLEGE...
GABINET: “Looking forward to getting back into NCHC play. Obviously another good opponent coming to town this weekend with CC. They’ve made some improvements the last few years with their program, so it's always a tough challenge.”
THE TEAM IS A COUPLE WINS FROM GETTING BACK NEAR .500, FEELINGS ON THAT...
GABINET: “First off, the biggest credit goes to the players and staff — just sticking with the process. It’s really important that the guys believe in it, and I think when you echo that message from the top — and they’re buying into it, and they’re focused every week to get better at something (and we’d narrowed that focus), and everybody’s working towards the common goal — then that’s the process you’ve got to trust. It’s nice to see the guys get rewarded with their efforts — not only on Friday, but the efforts the last couple weeks in practice.”
GABINET: “As much as you hate to be results-based, it’s nice to get that confidence from that when it does work out. So we look to continue to build on that, and know we’re still taking little steps — we’ve got a long way to go, but definitely a step in the right direction.”
WHAT AREA WAS UNO “BEST AT” IN THE SERIES AGAINST ARIZONA STATE...
GABINET: “I think — especially Friday — just playing the right way. Making decisions. I think we ‘out-chanced’ them 16 to 7 (or 8), and that’s our biggest margin of the season so far. I think that comes down to smart decisions at the blue line, puck management, nothing blind laterally.”
GABINET: “CC is going to be a little bit similar — I think — to ASU. They’re a very good transition team. They’re very quick. They’re fast. They’ve got a lot of small forwards that can really move. So, again, just where you give those guys the puck is very important. You want to make sure you’re above their guys tracking back to your defensive zone.”
GABINET: “Usually teams that are fast like that only really counter off your mistakes, or your mismanagement of the puck. We worked on a lot of angling yesterday, and we’re going to continue working on that this week. It’s very important we stay above their guys and not give them odd man rushes.”
HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT TO GET A POSITIVE RESULT IN A GAME (SATURDAY VS. ASU) WHERE CERTAIN THINGS WERE WORKING AGAINST THE MAVS?
GABINET: “We bent. We didn’t break. That’s a nice thing to have, especially when you’re looking to build something, to have an opportunity where you play a game — and maybe you’re not perfect — but you still get some results. That’s the best time to teach.”
GABINET: “When you’re down, or you’ve suffered a loss, you’ve gotta be a little bit careful with your approach, because the guys’ confidence is low. They’re not feeling great about themselves already. And if you hammer them as a coach, then they’re getting really in a bad place mentally. And vice versa. When you have some success, and you’re still not doing things perfectly, that’s a great chance to get after them.”
GABINET: “When we did our game review on Monday, we pointed out some areas of growth.”
ON COLORADO COLLEGE’S GROWTH...
GABINET: “Just watching them on tape, they’re a little bit like we were. I think they’re underperforming a little bit. I think they’re right in some games. I think they could easily have another 2-3 wins under their belt — just with a couple bounces going their way.”
GABINET: “Definitely a dangerous team and they’ve had a week to prepare for us. Just like we had a week to prepare for ASU. So they’ll be prepared. They’ll know what we’re doing. They’ll be rested and ready to go.”
HOW IS UNO “HEALTH-WISE” COMING OUT OF THE ASU SERIES?
GABINET: “Everybody healthy played on Saturday. We had a pretty easy decision with the lineup as a coaching staff.”
GABINET: “Guys are banged up. We’re not sure whose going to be ready to go again this weekend, but it’s been like that since I’ve been a head coach here.”
WAS THE SATURDAY GAME AGAINST ARIZONA STATE GOALTENDER EVAN WENINGER’S BEST GAME AS A MAV?
GABINET: “I think that’s the best game I’ve seen him play as a head coach. I remember when I was an assistant coach here — I think we were in Wisconsin — he had almost 50 saves there. But I think [the Arizona State game] was his most complete game. I thought he was inside his posts almost all night. He wasn’t overactive. He was scoring the puck. He was calm. He was tracking the puck. I thought he was really, really sharp.”
GABINET: “I think you’ve got to be process driven as a player, but anytime you do get that result, I think you can draw back on it. Now you know you’ve done it. You’re capable of performing a certain way. Obviously, he’s done that a few times in his career here, and now to have done that again recently. I think it’s great for him. Because now he can reflect on that and he’s capable of doing that. He’s capable of playing that well.”
GABINET: “College hockey is back-to-back nights. You could always worry about guys being tired or whatever, but I think that’s B.S. — you’ve got to be ready to go. You only get to play 30-some games, 40-some games in a season. So you’ve got to find a way to get yourself energized mentally and physically prepared.”
GABINET: “It wasn’t an easy decision on who to start Saturday... I didn’t decide until 5 o’clock that night who was going to play. For him to come out there with that type of game was a huge benefit for our program.”
ANY WORRIES ABOUT THE TEAM BEING “OVERCONFIDENT” GOING INTO THE COLORADO COLLEGE SERIES?
GABINET: “I don’t think so. I think you’d be pretty short-sighted to be overconfident. I think we’ve got a lot to work on. I know from a staff standpoint we’re figuring out ways to get better.”
GABINET: “I think we’ve gotta be proud of ourselves the way we played this weekend and where we’ve come. And like I talked about before we played ASU, when you play a team the second time, you get to see ‘are you getting better?’”
GABINET: “We’re getting better, but by no means are we at the level we need to be and playing consistently how we need to play. It’s a good step in the right direction, but the guys are focused.”
GABINET: “You’ve seen a lot of guys play their best hockey last weekend. I think I said Spinner, Morelli, Olofsson, Conley... a lot of those guys played their best hockey of the season so far. So we definitely want them to keep that momentum going.”
ON EARNING PLAYING TIME WITH THE TEAM...
GABINET: “I base my decision on practice. I’ve said that from day one. You earn what you get around here. You better be ready to go in practice. And I think you practice how you play. Whether it’s a player, a goalie, a defenseman, or a forward, I don’t care. You better show up to practice ready to go. You better compete. You better show the team, the staff, that you’re getting better everyday, and that’s how you earn your ice time on this team.”
PLAYER PERSPECTIVE ON THE TEAM’S EVOLUTION THE PAST FEW WEEKS...
JORDAN: “These past couple weeks it has taken a lot of hard work. It’s been kind of a realization of how we’re going to have to play this year as a team. I think everybody is starting to really buy into it now. It feels good to win again. Our wins haven’t been the prettiest. Saturday night was nice, obviously, getting the 4-0 shutout.”
JORDAN: “All the other games have been close, nitty gritty games, and I think that’s how we’re going to win a lot of games this year if we continue to play like we have been the past couple games.”
BUCHTA: “Being at UNO, I came here to win as many games as possible. We had a tough start this year, but I thought our practices — especially last week during the bye week — went extremely well, and extremely hard, too. That’s why I thought it paid off.“
BUCHTA: “The small details... that’s what changes the game nowadays.”
PLAYER FEELINGS ON UNO’S SHUTOUT AGAINST ARIZONA STATE...
BUCHTA: “Obviously, it felt good.”
BUCHTA: “Overall, I thought our D-zone was good, and that’s what you need to have in order to win every game at this level.”
ON THE FORWARDS IMPACT ON TEAM DEFENSE...
BUCHTA: “I feel like our forwards have been blocking more shots — especially in the past three games.”
JORDAN: “Gabs has been talking about the forwards a lot. The offense is going to come. If we can play solid in our D-zone, we’re going to create more chances for ourselves offensively with teams that are going to get caught cheating, and get caught with too many guys down low. Then we’re going to be able to go down on the rush and, hopefully, capitalize on our opportunities.”
JORDAN: “It’s been a little bit of a mindset change. We don’t need to always be opportunistic. We’re going to be able to create chances for ourselves as long as we play solid in the D-zone.”
JORDAN: “We’re just becoming more consistent with knowing our systems, knowing our outs, coming back as five-man units.”
HOW MUCH HAS THE IMPROVEMENT COME FROM “STICKING WITH THE PROCESS”?
JORDAN: “It’s always easier to buy into something when you know it’s working. If you’re seeing results right away, it’s a lot easier to buy in. It’s a lot harder when you’re 0-5-1 — or whatever we were — and felt like we couldn’t buy a win.”
JORDAN: “It was about 50/50 then, guys buying in... guys struggling, kind of doing their own thing.”
JORDAN: “More and more, everybody is really seeing that ‘Hey, if we stick with the process here, do things the way we talked about, and the way we go over video, and the way we plan for games,’ we’re going to be able to get a lot more wins.”
WAS THE SWEEP OVER ASU A CONFIDENCE BOOST?
BUCHTA: “They’re a really big team that works really hard. It’s really tough to play against them.”
BUCHTA: “We’ve got to be extremely careful about CC. As Z.J. said, we’ve got to stick with our process, because it works.”
JORDAN: “More than just a confidence boost, it felt really good to get two wins against then after going down there and not doing so hot. Especially with how they were acting after the game.”
DID EVAN WENINGER’S PERFORMANCE ON SATURDAY GIVE THE FORWARDS SOME MORE CONFIDENCE?
JORDAN: “Not just the offensive aspect of it, it gives a boost to the whole bench. A big save like that... or a big blocked shot... it just gets the boys going. It brings morale up, and everybody is just going. I feel like that is definitely something that has changed a lot since the beginning of the year.”