UNO Hockey Coach Mike Gabinet, senior forward Fredrik Olofsson, and junior defenseman Ryan Jones answered media questions as part of the “Omaha Athletics Weekly Media Availability” on March 5, 2019.
Gabinet & Co. fielded questions regarding the UNO Hockey team’s series against Denver on March 1-2, and the upcoming series at North Dakota on March 8-9 in Grand Forks.
If you would like to watch the hockey news conference, you can do so here.
THOUGHTS ON THE DENVER SERIES...
GABINET: “Even though we came away with a tie there, just a great weekend for the program. Took a lot of steps in the right direction. We did the game review on Monday and just watching the guys’ play on Saturday — to me, it’s just very, very impressive (I was telling the players) just to watch how committed they were to playing the right way, to doing the little things in their games that give you a chance at success, to see how far the guys have come and continue to challenge themselves. It’s just very uplifting as a staff.”
GABINET: “It takes a tough mindset to play like that consistently against such a good opponent.”
GABINET: “Some real big growth there that past weekend where we’re committed to doing things over and over and over again. Guys are starting to be more accountable to that, and it’s leading us to being in some tight games.”
GABINET: “That’s one of the favorite video sessions I’ve done out of the year on Monday.”
GABINET: “There’s nothing better than praising the guys. Because to me, praise what you want repeated.”
GABINET: “We’re slowly learning the level — and the way we have to play — to be competitive in this conference. And to have some structure in place there that they executed on consistently and to have a result — even though it wasn’t a win — it was a good tie. Especially with a comeback against a top five team in the country, I think that’s really rewarding. We have to continue to grow on that into this last two games of the regular season.”
ON THE UPCOMING NORTH DAKOTA SERIES...
GABINET: “I think the guys always get excited to play up there. We’ve had some past success up there, which is great. I mean, they’re gonna be hungry, too. They’re fighting for their lives, too. So it’s gonna be a very difficult series. They’re obviously a very good hockey team. They’re ranked in the top 20 now again. So we have to be ready to go.”
GABINET: “Last weekend was emotional for our senior group. You could tell there was an emotional thing in their eyes. Which is good and bad. It’s good when you can channel that into productivity. So I think it’s kind of nice now that maybe that last home weekend is over now. To me, now it’s about doing something special in however long we’ve got left to play.”
GABINET: “So hopefully they can channel that energy in the correct way here. And I think they will. It was a great practice yesterday. Short and hard and tense and highly competitive and I think they’re gonna really respond well up there in North Dakota.”
ON THE SENIOR GOALTENDERS...
GABINET: “One of the things that I always say is the game is fair, and it rewards you. I think you’re seeing that a little bit with Evan’s play in the second half here. He’s just been one of our top players in the second half — if not the top player in the second half.”
GABINET: “Blankenburg is another guy that comes and shows up and does the right thing day in and day out — whether you’re rewarded for it or not. To me, that’s a very, very high character indication of yourself. When you have the ability to be consistent in your approach — when sometimes the results aren’t there, with playing time and things like that.”
GABINET: “Very proud of both those guys. They’re setting the foundation for how guys should behave here.”
GABINET: “That’s been another big thing the seniors have quietly done this season is to set an example for how hard it takes. We don’t have quite the depth that maybe some of the other teams do in our conference, that freshman group can get a little bit comfortable in just showing up and going through the motions and expecting certain things to happen. That’s the exact opposite of what you want to have in a program. You want that competitive environment. You need guys to earn what they get here. And I think it’s been a good little wake-up call for our freshmen and our underclassmen. There’s accountability here and I think the seniors have upped their games, which helps ‘up’ the accountability to the younger guys. You’re not just going to get in the lineup because you’re showing up every day. You gotta earn something here. You gotta prove to the team, to (the) staff, to yourself (most importantly) that you’re improving every day. I think a lot of those seniors have done a great job taking lead of that and forcing guys to up their compete level. Again, there’s more to give, and we can give it.“
ON THE TEAM BEING READY TO PLAY IN GRAND FORKS...
GABINET: “I think we’ve got about 4 or 5 guys that are kind of all in the same window and we’re gonna play who is gonna give us the best chance to win and I like that fact — that you’ve gotta earn what you get. So, for right now, I think we’re gonna be as healthy as we’re gonna be for the postseason. Knock on wood. A couple guys were out yesterday, but hopefully they’ll be back for this weekend.”
GABINET: “This is the time of year where we can’t afford mistakes. We know what’s expected. The message has been clear. The communication has been clear. It’s time to show up and execute. With that comes accountability, and I think that’s a good thing for our program at this stage.”
ON RECRUITING... IS IT STEADY THROUGHOUT THE SEASON? DOES IT GEAR UP AT CERTAIN TIMES?
GABINET: “If you talk to the staff, it’s definitely been consistent for the whole season long, just with the effort level going into recruiting. Yeah, it’s something that just never stops — you can’t let it stop. I think the biggest thing people have to understand is, again, just the strength of our schedule, and the conference we play in, that recruiting can never get left alone for too long a period or you’ll be playing big-time catchup.”
GABINET: “Our staff has done an excellent job this year of setting aside time for it to make sure it’s being taken care of, and it’s always at the forefront of our mind — while maintaining the proper level of care for our current players and preparation for the games at hand.”
GABINET: “People have to realize that you have to do the right thing over and over again for a long period of time just to be competitive in our league. We’re not talking about, you know, all the sudden we’re going to recruit well for 2-3 years and be better than St. Cloud all the sudden. That’s just to be competitive in our conference for how strong the conference is. And I think we’re making some real progress in there with identifying some good character individuals that are extremely talented that have bright futures in hockey if they maintain on the same path.”
WHERE THE TEAM IS AT FROM A MENTAL PERSPECTIVE...
JONES: “I think we’re feeling good right now. Especially coming off a game I thought went really well as a team on Saturday night. But we’re just trying to stay positive right now.”
OLOFSSON: “We’re excited. It’s kind of bittersweet for me. My four years here at Baxter have been amazing. I think the guys really responded with a lot of heart there on Saturday. And we kind of learned how we have to play every night. So just still building. Still getting better.”
ON THE NORTH DAKOTA SERIES...
OLOFSSON: “North Dakota has always just been a fun team to play against, whether it’s here or there. They’re always a chippy, hard-working team and it kind of brings the fight out of you.”
OLOFSSON: “It’s always exciting going up to The Ralph, too. Fun place to play. Usually gets a little rowdy, too. So that kind of makes us play a little harder.”
JONES: “It’s my favorite place on the road to play. Just because you always know you’re getting a battle. And, I think our team loves that, loves stepping up and proving people wrong. So, we know it’s going to be a hard fought weekend this weekend so we’re just going to get prepared for that.”
ON WATCHING THE CONFERENCE RACE...
OLOFSSON: “I haven’t looked at it too much. I mean, at the end of the day, if we want to make it far this year, we’re going to have to be able to beat any team in our conference. So I think just building up, getting better every week, and making sure we’re as ready as we can be with whoever we play. I think that’s ultimately going to serve us best."
OLOFSSON: “When we’re kind of too focused on winning, or scoring goals, it’s kind of when it doesn’t work out for us. When we’re more process oriented — and not necessarily focused on the result — we usually end up playing better and building up better. So, I don’t really care who we play, we’ll be ready to prove them wrong."
ON THE SATURDAY NIGHT TIE AGAINST DENVER...
JONES: “It just proved to us that playing the simple way is the way we’re gonna get the best results. Just having the team playing as a whole and trying not to do everything yourselves. Just the simple plays — like getting pucks deep going on our forecheck is one thing I think we’re really good at. So, I think, just keep making those simple plays and we’ll be fine.”
THOUGHTS ON THE FIRST SERIES AGAINST NORTH DAKOTA IN JANUARY AND HOW THAT IMPACTS THE FINAL SERIES OF THE REGULAR SEASON AGAINST THEM...
JONES: “As the years go on, they’re more of a hard-working team. I know in the past they were a lot of skill, and stuff like that. It’s just a new challenge for us, but we’re going to be ready for it.”
OLOFSSON: “Honestly, the year’s gone so quick and the early days in the season seem so long ago. I can’t remember too much about them. But, like Jonesy said, they’ve had years in the past where they’ve been kind of powerhouses — they had skill and grit combined. But this year, they’re more focused on being that hard-working team. That’s not knocking on any of their guys. That’s something we can kind of learn from, too. It’s not necessarily the talent at the end of the day that gets results.”
FEELINGS ON SENIOR NIGHT...
OLOFSSON: “When I was skating around doing my little lap — and I saw my parents and all that — I kind of broke down a little bit. I mean, it’s sad. It’s been an amazing four years here for me, getting to play and being close enough to where my family can come out and kind of see everything has been awesome. Yeah, we didn’t get that win, but I think it was kind of more of a moral victory for us being able to show that we can battle with the best of ‘em in the conference.”
OLOFSSON: “After the game, I wasn’t too sad, I guess. I was kind of more frustrated and down on myself. Because we had a chance to beat ‘em — be right there with ‘em. It’s just that execution is just a little better on their part. That’s kind of why we’re here in practice — getting better working on that so we’ll be ready when the next chance comes around.”