first_imgWisconsin hockey coaches Mike Eaves and Tracey DeKeyser were the first skaters to test the ice Monday at Camp Randall Stadium.[/media-credit]Talk to anyone within the Wisconsin Hockey community, and you will no doubt feel a sense of anticipation for this Saturday’s Culver’s Camp Randall Hockey Classic.Men’s coach Mike Eaves is certainly feeling the excitement.“There is no other feeling like [hearing] the sound the puck makes when it leaves your stick or the sound that your skate makes when it cuts on outdoor ice,” Eaves said.The Badgers have not played an outdoor game since 2006, when they defeated Ohio State 4-2 at Lambeau Field.While one might be tempted to think his players might get caught up in the hype and emotions surrounding the game, Eaves believes his team will not need any extra motivation to play at a high level.“I think that will take care of itself, based on the experience we had [at Lambeau],” Eaves said. “You could see it in the kids’ eyes,” Eaves said. “They were going to play at a high level because they were so excited.”With such a high energy level in play, Eaves hopes his current team can duplicate the success the 2006 team enjoyed.“If we didn’t have this game, we would have this week off,” Eaves said. “This is kind of an energizer, and we look at it as such.”Challenges of Outdoor HockeyDespite the buildup for the game, an outdoor environment may present problems players and coaches would otherwise never encounter.Among these potential challenges is the condition of the ice itself.“Outdoor ice one day could be different than outdoor ice the next day,” Eaves said. “It’s very sensitive to a lot of different things.”One of Eaves’ chief concerns regarding the outdoor ice is its smoothness, which presented a minor problem at Lambeau four years ago.“[The] challenge for the icemakers is to keep it so it doesn’t get chippy, that you just get the snow that comes on top,” Eaves said.Perhaps even more important is the change in environment for the players, most of whom have never played a collegiate game outdoors.Eaves specifically mentioned the difficulties that will be faced by whoever plays goaltender for the Badgers.Due to the different environment, it will be more difficult for the goaltenders to see the puck off the opponents’ sticks.“One of the things that is going to be a challenge for us is to get our goalies out there and see pucks at night, under the lights with the background,” Eaves said. “I think we have to be very cognizant of that.”Thus far, Wisconsin has rotated two starting goalies, juniors Scott Gudmandson and Brett Bennett.Eaves confirmed he and his coaching staff have no plans to change this rotation, nor have they chosen a starter for this Saturday.“We’re still a two-goalie team,” Eaves said. “We’ll go into this week and practice and see how the guys perform, and then based on that, as we always do, we’ll make a choice for this weekend.”Improving Down the StretchThe Badgers are looking to rebound from a 4-0 loss at Minnesota-Duluth last Saturday.“This past weekend, I don’t think we executed as well as we could have,” Eaves said.Specifically, Eaves addressed the necessity for his team to play a cleaner game.The Badgers recorded 13 penalties for 29 minutes in the loss.“We weren’t able to use one of our strengths, which is our depth, because we kept finding ourselves going to the penalty box,” Eaves said. “We can’t be doing that.”Despite the loss, Eaves is optimistic about his team’s chances on Saturday and also for the remainder of the season.He hopes this Saturday’s contest can provide a spark to propel the Badgers through their last eight regular season gamesA similar effect was noticeable when the Badgers last played an outdoor game during the 2006 championship season.“Everybody is excited,” Eaves said. “Hopefully we can take that energy down the back stretch.”last_img