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MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY HOCKEY MEDIA CONFERENCE
October 1, 2014
COACH ANASTOS:¬† Good afternoon, everybody.¬† Nice to see you.¬† I know we're in the midst of football season with a huge game on the weekend, and of course the Tigers in the Playoffs, excited about that.
But it's hockey season and everybody over here is fired up to get going.¬† What I thought I would do is I would make a few comments on a couple different areas and get us caught up and get you guys caught up to where we were, where we are, and what we're looking to head to‑‑¬† there is a conflict.¬† Major League baseball must not have got our schedule in time, huh?¬† (Chuckling).
Anyway, our off‑season, physical conditioning was real good.¬† Our team chemistry is coming together. ¬†We have a small freshman class I'll talk about a little bit, but only four players, that is quite a difference from where we've been the last two years in particular.
And you know, when I look at the last three seasons, and I look at opening night, I think three years or two years ago, we had nine new players, not all freshmen, a couple transfers, but four first‑year defense men in the line up, seven freshmen opening weekend last year played, and then we have up to four potentially who can play this year.
So that's a dynamic that's definitely relevant and a little bit different.¬† We do have a little bit of experience now.
The areas we really like about our team, I mentioned physical conditioning.¬† I thought it was our best off‑season.¬† We challenged the guys when our season was over.¬† We didn't have guys come back early, given the renovations, but also wanted them to get a nice, fresh mind‑set before the season started.¬† I held my breath to see how they would come back and based on our physical testing, it's been the best in three years.
So we like our physical strength and conditioning where we're at today to start the season.¬† And I think more importantly was a sign of the commitment that was made by the guys in the off‑season, so that was really good.
Another thing we like is we really have some emerging leadership on our team.¬† When you have a younger group like we did the last two years, it's not always comfortable for freshmen and sophomores to kind of emerge in those roles, and that's where the bulk of our numbers were, and that's not to take away from the juniors and seniors we had, but we had bigger numbers in those younger classes.
So it's nice to see those guys start to emerge.¬† As you know, we named Michael Ferrantino our captain last April and he's done a good job to this point.¬† We will add some additional assistant captains prior to our opening week of the season against UMass, and that's been an ongoing process a little bit.
But beyond that, we have a number of guys who are really kind of evolving in leadership roles on our team, and that's really good.
Group chemistry, we have done some team building exercises, and just listening to the players, I haven't got a chance to spend the kind of time that we'll ultimately spend with them, but listening to them and their comments being this is so far the closest team that they have been here is a good sign, so we're happy about that.
We do have, while we're still fairly youthful, we have lots of sophomores and juniors, and then of course the freshmen but we do have more experience, a lot of those players had, really baptism by fire so they had to play.¬† So we have experience this year which is nice.
Our goaltending is proven and experienced in Jake, in Jake's case, certainly we have a freshman come in but he's got no pressure to play immediately.¬† We expect Jake to play lots and perform very well.
And we demonstrated last year that we have the ability to defend, and with the exception of a couple games where scoring got away from us, we thought we did a pretty good job with the young group and defending, and we think we'll just get better this year.
The real question marks coming into the season, our ability to score.¬† It's been our question mark for two years, on a per‑game basis last year, we crept up, not enough ‑‑ not in a meaningful way, but that made a difference in winning and losing.
When I look over the last season, the number of one‑goal games we played in, the number of games, I think it was 24 games, if I remember, we scored two goals or less.¬† That's a lot of games when you play 34 games or 35, whatever the number was.
So we have got to improve our goal scoring, and we think that as our team is evolving, that's going to take place.¬† There are going to be players who will emerge to do that.
With that, I think the other areas we have to get better at are special teams have to get better at both our power play and penalty kill.¬† Our ability to execute at a higher tempo has to get better, and that's been a real focus for us, really the last couple years, but now that we have a little more experience, I'm hopeful that we can be better at that.
Because we want to play fast.¬† We want to play with possession and we want to play on the attack.¬† But it's blocking and tackling in our game, passing and receiving, making plays in tight spaces; those are the kind of things we have to do a better job at a high tempo so we can play the way we want to play.
We have to improve our ability to win close games.¬† We play in a lot of close games, a lot of one‑goal games.¬† Last year I think we saw from two years ago, losses turn into ties, and of those ties, I think our record was like 1, 2 and 7 in ties.¬† Our last game of the season was in overtime, and we ended up losing that game.
So we have got to move those games, take another step and move many of those games into the win column which will help build our confidence, and certainly the results that are looking for.
I think the other thing we have to do, as we improve our mind‑set, gain confidence, is we have to improve not just winning at home but we have to be way better on the road.¬† I thought we competed hard but we want to get results.
So that's where we're at.¬† We have been practicing in the NCAA restricted time frames.¬† Right now we have been on the ice as a team for up to two hours a week.¬† The players have organized themselves at times where they have been able to go on the ice.
Our strength training sessions have been really good.¬† Our honorary sessions have been really good, although we are limited and we are all anxious, I know the players are real anxious to get going come Saturday.
Saturday we'll have a two‑a‑day practice.¬† We'll practice in the morning and then we have an open practice with all the buzz going on for football.¬† We'll practice at ten in the mornings and then the open practice at four, and then we can attend the football game.
We'll have our Green and White Game on Saturday.¬† I believe somebody might have mentioned that conflicts with the Tiger game but we can address that later.¬† And then we get ready for an exhibition Tuesday against Windsor, and then we can build towards playing UMass on our home opening weekend in mid‑October.
So with that, happy to field questions.
Q.¬† With all the talk about improvements coming to mind, is hockey like football and basketball?¬† Have schools recruited against you because of money in its current state?
COACH ANASTOS:¬† Well, facilities is always an issue that you deal with in recruiting, and we think we have a terrific facility.
We think there's great history here.¬† You've just got to look over your shoulder and see all those banners hanging, and we certainly recruit to that when players are here.¬† Obviously over a period of years, facilities change, amenities change, and so forth.
So is facilities a part of recruitment?¬† I'm sure it is.¬† We have been recruiting and telling people all along that we are working towards the improvements that we are all starting to see.¬† I don't expect facilities to be an issue for us.¬† I expect facilities will be an asset for us as it always has been here.
Q.¬† Curious if everyone is in the best condition‑‑ coaches say that every year, but sounds like you're genuine.¬† What is that about?¬† Is it maybe about guys that have been here are tired of losing and they will do anything they can to take the next step up?
COACH ANASTOS:¬† I mentioned there was a commitment. That's what I'm taking away from it more than anything else.¬† It's the commitment we're looking for.
It's the mind‑set we're trying to create.¬† Our goal is to retool our program to have a championship culture, and that starts with your mentality, your expectations.
That means you're committed all the time, not some of the time.¬† I point it out to our guys, just following a guy like Derek Jeter, and looking at how he's approached his career and the success he's had.¬† It's not by coincidence.¬† It's not just God gave him talent.¬† He's worked real hard at producing the kind of career that he has.
If you listen to some of his comments, and he talks about he's no longer prepared to make a 365‑day‑a year commitment, and that's what it takes to be an elite athlete today and hang banners like this.
We want to learn from others' success, whether it's on our campus; if you look at football or basketball or other sports, or guys like Jeter, we try to make sure that we expose that to our players if they are not seeing it.
So for us, to me, I'm not just saying it ‑‑ I would tell you I was disappointed if our guys came in in the worst shape of the three years, I would be very frank of it.¬† But that doesn't mean anything.¬† We haven't scored a goal.¬† We haven't won a game.¬† But in the body of work, coming back to campus with a youthful group, we are seeing that mentality that we're looking for and that we've been trying to really see since coming here and that's the first test, and it was a good one.
So I'm real excited about it.¬† And, I will tell you, I was nervous about it, because we had the guys on campus pretty much all summer the last two years.
So I was really worried if they go home, what's that going to be like.¬† But they showed what they were capable of.¬† So we're real happy about that today.
Q.¬† When you have your freshmen class rated No. 10 by a dot‑com and they don't even mention Dylan, can you just talk about how good these freshmen can be and maybe what you‑‑‑‑ how good you need them to be this season?
COACH ANASTOS:¬† I think it's a real good freshman class and it's coming off a real good freshman class from last year.¬† And I think that's what's important is to put some consecutive groups together to build their talent level and the depth on our team.
This group, what I'm excited about is we have good intelligence in the group‑‑ and I'm talking about hockey intelligence.¬† They have championship, I don't ‑‑ want to diminish their academic intelligence, by the way, not inferring anything.
But they have championship experience, too.¬† And that's really important.¬† The guys that come from the national team program have college games, Division I games of experience under their belt already.¬† They played in World Championships at the USA Team level.¬† Josh Jacobs won the Clark Cup in the USA ‑‑ not an easy thing to do.¬† And he went from a team his first year that lost a lot and was part of changing that culture and elevating that team, and he took a leadership role on that team to help them win that championship.
And Carson Gatt, he did the same thing in high school during his time at Catholic Central, I believe, won one or two State Championships.
So they have that mentality, which to us is of great value.¬† They will be able to come into an environment, which I think is really healthy for them, because now they are going to be playing with some players that have experience; or, you know, Travis Walsh and Johnny Draeger and Rhett Holland and some of the other guys, R.J. Boyd, when those guys came in as defensemen, they really didn't‑‑ after year one, we pretty much lost seven of eight defense men.
Those guys came in and they just had to play and they didn't get to play‑‑ the only returning defenseman we had back on the team was Jake Chelios who had only played one season.
So it's a very good class.¬† It meets needs that we feel we have on the team.¬† There's speed, there's good skill, there's good hockey IQ.¬† There's some size.¬† If you look at our team today up and down our roster compared to three years ago, we're bigger, we're stronger, we're faster; that's been one of our objectives.¬† This group adds to it.
Q.¬† With that, raised expectations, I know you talked about the youth and inexperience the past few years.¬† What are the realistic expectations for this group?¬† Is it an NCAA year?
COACH ANASTOS:¬† Well, sure would be nice to be able to get ourselves in a position to do that.¬† Do they need‑‑ that's a want.¬† We always want to.
And I guess I put it like this, is that we're going through a process, we have to stay true to the process and see it through.¬† It is working.¬† It is working.¬† And may not move as fast as any of us want to do it, but I really believe in what we're doing, and I believe our team does, and I know our staff does.
As we go through that process, as I look today, we can see the corner.¬† We can see the corner.¬† The question:¬† Can we turn the corner.¬† And that's really, when I talk about things that are question marks for us, can we do that this year, can we make the turn.
Because I look, I compare our team, the first team I had here, and it's not easy to compare it, but that team made the NCAA Tournament.¬† We had a superstar in Torey Krug who really emerged to superstar level that year.¬† As we sit today, I don't know if we have that player on our team.¬† But going into that year, we didn't know Torey Krug would elevate to that level, either.
I would say our forwards, we probably have as much depth or talent on this team as we did there, at least I think we do.¬† Our defense has not as much experience as we had on that particular team, especially when you take really a game changer like Krug out of it.¬† And on goal, I think we're as good as we've been since I've been here.
So that team made the NCAA Tournament.¬† Whether or not this team does, I don't know.¬† Our schedule this year is very demanding, so it presents opportunity, through strength of schedule both inside the conference and outside the conference, but at the same time it will be very demanding.
I think that's certainly a target for us.¬† We would love to get into that event again and we expect to get there and stay there.¬† But that will be the biggest question mark for this team, can we turn that corner.
Q.¬† Most fans perspective is football and basketball where coaches get immediate recruits and can make a change within one or two years.¬† For you, this is the start of your fourth season and the first freshman class you've entirely recruited and you'll be in your eighth year before you have a group of your own seniors.¬† Is there a way to fix that, or with hockey, it can't change because of the Canadian and pro dynamic?¬† And are you able to take a deep breath and look at, this is really the beginning this year?
COACH ANASTOS:¬† Well, I guess when you say fix it, depends what people would think would be fixed.
I have very consciously, when we came in there were a number of committed players that were coming to Michigan State, just like there are today.¬† If I were to leave today and somebody else were to come in, there's a number of committed players here for the next several years.¬† That's just the way the dynamics line up in our sport, which makes it very unique.
So we fulfilled those commitments, which I believe the last one was Joe Cox.¬† He made a great impact on our team, and he came in last year as a freshman.
So, yeah, this is our first full class that's finally gotten on campus, and I don't know if that's going to change in the sport.¬† I don't foresee it in the near future.¬† Probably the Canadian Junior Hockey piece is one piece of it, but I think that's only one piece of it today.
If you look across all sports, all sports are starting to get younger in their recruitment.¬† I don't know if that's a good thing but that's how it's evolved and hockey was probably one of the leaders in it.
What I'm optimistic about, I told you guys before, like all these players, I feel a commitment to all of them, whether I recruited them or not, their Spartans and Spartans forever, and we are getting everything they can give us.¬† Every guy that's come through here, I can say has made every effort to give us everything we've asked for.
To me, where we're at is in trying to turn that corner, we have to start putting classes together.¬† We're going to not just keep getting better but class after class after class; you know, really step up and make big contributions.¬† You can't go with a bad class or a really small or really big number.
And so that was one of challenges coming out of the gate is re‑working our roster, because if you look back after the first year, we lost‑‑ I can't remember if it was 11 or 12 players.¬† Well, that's half your playing roster.
Well, we didn't want to be there again, and seven of eight defensemen; I didn't want to go four years and lose seven of eight defensemen and, again four years later.¬† You ramp up and you're going to crash.
We are trying to create some level of consistency.¬† So we did that strategically with some transfers and so on, and I think we're working through that.¬† As we look back, probably a year from now as we look back, I'm quite confident we're going to say that was the right decision to make.
But we're real pleased with how our recruiting is moving forward.¬† We're real pleased how players are developing through and we just think our team will keep getting better.
Q.¬† Can you go over your forwards?
COACH ANASTOS:¬† Well, I think there's a couple different places to look.¬† If you look at last year's team, there's some players that really kind of stepped up their game.¬† Mike Ferrantino being one.
I think he ended up with nine goals last year and maybe had a couple the year before.¬† But he became a player last year, and he probably took his game to a higher level than what we maybe forecasted.¬† So I think he'll continue to elevate.
Matt Berry, hopefully we can get him healthy.¬† He's a natural goal scorer.¬† He's good around the net.¬† We had him half of the season last year and probably at 70 percent.¬† So he still kind of has a nagging injury.¬† If he can get over that, I think he has the ability to step up.
I think guys that went from freshmen to sophomores that scored a little bit last year and look really good so far this year, their physical conditioning, their confidence level, you look at guys like Cox and Haag and MacEachern; I think Ebbing has a potential to contribute offensively.¬† Those guys in particular, we would expect them to take a nice, positive step this year.
And then, you know, from two years ago, we had Brent Darnell, Matt DeBlouw, Tanner Sorenson, and none of those guys had the kind of year that we or they would have hoped for last year, and two years ago, they scored 33 of our 87 goals and last year they had three.
Combined.¬† So depending upon what step they take, there is potential there to really contribute offensively.¬† And I'm not even mentioning guys like a JP Stenglein who has a lot of junior hockey experience and scorer and he can get himself in the lineup and contribute.¬† He's got the potential to score.
And I think Dylan Pavelek does, as well.¬† I think he played in a certain role on the national team last year, but I watched him play through his youth years, and he's got good offensive ability.
So I think, that's why I'm so optimistic about this group of players; I think that potential to step up there is there.
I think the other area that we have to figure a way to manufacture and generate more offense is from our defense.¬† That team we talked about going into the NCAA Tournament a couple years ago, a ton of offense came from that position and we haven't been really getting that.
So we are going to try to do some things and hopefully with some experience that the guys have gained over the past couple years, we can get more offense from our defense.
Q.¬† You mentioned that players feel much closer this year as a team than they have in years past.¬† What would you say has changed in the chemistry that has improved them so significantly?
COACH ANASTOS:¬† That question is probably better served for them, because again, that's coming from them.¬† My perception is this.¬† It's just a natural evolution.
When you have the kind of turnover that we had after my first season, you introduce 11 to 12 new players into the team, that's almost half of your team.
Keep in mind, as freshmen, they are in dorms.¬† They are not living in off campus or in apartments.¬† They are in the dorms, so they spend a lot of time together, and finding time for guys other than practice or workouts to be together isn't always so easy.
And then the way college hockey is growing today, you have guys as young as 18 and guys that‑‑ I think Dean Chelios left last year, he turned 25.¬† That's a pretty big range in age.¬† So levels of interests and all those sorts of things.
All good guys, they got a long well together, but you know, I've been on teams that you have that special feeling where there's a real good mix, and so I think part of it is just the natural evolution of guys being closer in class than we've had before.
And you know, guys kind of plugging along through two very tough seasons of hanging in there, working hard, fighting through adversity and can see we are on the cusp of taking that step and I think guys are excited about it and I also think it's bringing guys together.
Q.¬† Can you talk about what Jacobs will bring to the defense, you had a good defensive team last year.¬† You're talking about a high‑end guy, second round pick.¬† What specifically can he bring?
COACH ANASTOS:¬† He has the physical skills of a very high‑level prospect‑‑ goal is obviously to implement that.¬† But he's a big, strong kid‑‑ all four of our freshmen are true freshmen.¬† For his age, he's a big, strong kid.
I'm real impressed even beyond what I expected of his tenacity and his intensity and work habits, so far.¬† I was thinking he might be included with the other freshmen, maybe a little behind where some of the upperclassmen might and be have to go through that adjustment period and he'll certainly have to adjust like everybody does when they play.
But boy, his practice habits, from what little I've seen, they have been really good.¬† But his skill set is high level.¬† He handles the puck well.¬† He skates really well.¬† He covers a lot of ice.¬† He can be physical.¬† He moves the puck well.¬† He can shoot it.
So he'll develop an identity at this level.¬† We'll have to kind of wait and see what that is, but I think he can be a contributor offensively, although I wouldn't call him an offensive defenseman, and I think he can be a very solid defense player, although I wouldn't call him a defensive defenseman.¬† I think he'll be a nice blend and potentially be a really good two‑way defenseman.
Q.¬† Sophomore and junior classes came in as freshmen and had pretty big roles to fill mostly because of the amount of players in their classes and like you said the freshman class is coming in to a more established team.¬† Do you have different expectations and do you think there's less pressure to perform well on a given night because the lines are kind of already set?
COACH ANASTOS:¬† More pressure on‑‑ did you say everybody or on the freshman class?¬† They are going to put pressure on themselves because they are going to be eager to get in and establish themselves and try and get in the lineup.¬† You go through a series and you're focused on yourself.¬† You want to get yourself in the lineup and as you get in the lineup, you want to establish yourself and you want to get more ice time, those kind of things.
I think it's a real benefit to them, even if guys don't see it.¬† They may say that, but whether they feel it or not, it's a benefit to them that they get to play with some more experienced players.¬† We're not loaded with experience, but we are more experienced than where we were a year ago and way more experienced than two years ago.
So I think it's a benefit to them.¬† I think for a Josh Jacobs or a Carson Gatt to be able to come onto a team and go on to the ice and play with a guy that's played meaningful minutes in one or two Division I college seasons, that's more helpful than, you know, Walsh or Draeger coming in a couple years ago and not being able to play with anybody.
We had one guy that could play with Jake who had one year of experience.¬† So I do think that's a benefit.
I do think they can come into an environment that they don't have to feel tons of pressure to carry the load of the team, and yet at the same time, they are going to feel their own pressure, because pressure in the end is pretty much self‑induced; that they are going to come in and they want to contribute.¬† They want to make a difference.
We talk about with our guys, we talk about it in recruiting, we have been recruiting guys to come here who have the mentality knowing we are going through a transition and at times it's difficult and you've got to be able to stay focused, weather the storm and keep your eye on the target, and the target is hanging banners like we see over there.
And so while these guys have all been recruited with that mentality, and now they will all have a chance to realize they are a part of it.
Q.¬† Can you talk about what you expect to see out of Michael Ferrantino this year?
COACH ANASTOS:¬† I would say more of the same.¬† He's a bit of aput ‑‑ inaudible ‑‑ he plays with a big heart.¬† He plays with a lot of emotion.¬† He plays with skill and intelligence and he does all that in about 5‑8, is that what it is?¬† But he's a very intense competitor every single day.
You know, he's the kind of guy that we wanted to bring into our program to help with the turnaround, and he was one of these guys that really embraced that, and he wants to win, just like the other guys do, and he's real committed to winning.¬† He's done a real good job in the off‑season and he takes their leadership role that he's earned.
He takes it real seriously.¬† Reminds me of Torey Krug.¬† He wants to get better.¬† One of the first things he did when he was named captain, he approached me with a list.¬† He did some background check of previous captains at Michigan State and he asked me if he could get their phone numbers so he could reach out to them and contact them.¬† I thought that would be an interesting approach to see what he could learn from the past.
He takes the role real seriously.¬† But he's a bit of on emotional leader for the team.¬† I think that his teammates trust him.¬† That's why overwhelmingly, they have provided input to me that he's a guy that they feel deserves to be in that role.
Q.¬† Is Minnesota the clear favorite to win the?¬† Is the Big Ten Conference wide open this year?
COACH ANASTOS:¬† On paper they would be.¬† They have a lot of talent on their team.¬† I'm not sure if this is accurate, I thought I read the other day that they have eight‑‑ we carry eight defense men, they carry eight defensemen.¬† They have eight NHL draft picks as defensemen.¬† If that's true, that's pretty impressive.¬† That'd two NHL picks sitting out every night when they play.
So they had a young team last year, very talented team.¬† Strong in goal and they have a very good defense and they have a lot of depth up front.
I think it's a fair expectation to look at them as the team to beat in the league based on their body of work given their youth and the fact that they went to the NCAA Championship game last year.
Yet, at the same time, I think there's a lot of parity in the league.¬† Go right down to a Penn State who is really an upstart program, they play real hard.¬† They are very competitive.
So I think any team‑‑ I know this is real coach speak, but any team can win any night.¬† And if you look at our team last year, we are going through a transition, but we played some of our best games against Minnesota and had a heck of a team and played in the Frozen Four.¬† I can't remember the scores but I don't know if any of our games were more than a one‑goal spread.
Yeah, they are probably the team to beat.¬† They are certainly the team I picked in the preseason and we'll all be gunning for them.
Q.¬† Torey is your guy in there now; with all of the success and attention he's getting, does that help you in recruiting‑‑ inaudible‑‑ how much does that help to have the success that Torey is, and quite frankly, take hockey out of it, is that the kind of kid that characterizes what you want on your team?
COACH ANASTOS:¬† Definitely, Torey represents everything we want our culture, our athletic department, our school to represent.¬† His commitment to academics and his commitment to the community, his commitment to getting better and ultimately to his performance.
So, sure, we take great pride in Torey.¬† But I can give you a whole list.¬† I think we had 16 guys in the NHL last year, some of them date back to when Coach Mason was here.¬† We take great pride in Michigan State's history, legacy, and our impact in that league and we'll continue to do it.
What's impactful in recruits today when you talk about that is they really associate or can identify a Torey Krug, a Justin Abdelkader or Drew Miller, these current high‑profile guys, probably more so than some other guys who have been in the league doing quite well for‑‑ well, he's a high‑profile guy, too, Duncan Keith, for sure.
I hate mentioning guys because I'm going to miss guys but there are guys that have been in the league for ten, 12, 15 years and there are other guys, in Duncan's case, he's super high‑profile and really hitting his stride and he's in the prime of his career.¬† Krug is on the upward slope and you see Ebbs and Drew, and those guys are on the upper ‑‑ and Ryan is still chugging along.
So there's lots of Spartans.¬† I think we were four of five in all of college hockey last year with the most NHL players currently.¬† We want to keep that going.
Q.¬† At Big Ten Hockey Media Day, Michael Ferrantino bluntly said it's time to start winning some games; but what does that say about your captain and how exciting is it to hear your captain say that?
COACH ANASTOS:¬† Well, all of the above, all of the questions you just asked, I think it speaks volumes because I believe everything starts with your mind‑set.
Everything starts with the expectations.¬† And if you expect to be average, you're going to achieve that, and the only way you can achieve championship status is to expect it and then demand it and go after it.
Now, the process in getting there takes a little bit of time, and we are going through that, but I like that, especially when it comes from one of the leaders on your team.¬† Because you have to have that expectation.
I can't wait till we get back there to where every game you go into, you have that quiet confidence, that swagger, that, hey, we expect to win, I don't care where we are, I don't care what date it is, I don't care if we won yesterday or lost yesterday, that's what our expectation is today.
And so that's what we aspire to get to and we'll get there soon.
Q.¬† I mentioned to you about the freshmen and what you're expecting from them and what you need from them.¬† On the other side, talk about the four seniors and what you're going to need from them and what do you expect from them going into the final season?
COACH ANASTOS:¬† I'm pleased with how they came back to school, like the rest of the team.¬† You know, Matt Berry is a player that can really help you are team offensively.
I feel bad he's been dealing with kind of a nagging injury, and if we can get him over that hump, both mentally and physically‑‑ that kind of injury can really nag on you mentally and so if we can get him over that hump, what I like about the group is my sense is, there's a great sense of desperation.
We talk about it, the first year, they were freshmen, they were in the NCAA Tournament.¬† They are the only players that are here right now that have been in the NCAA Tournament.¬† So when they were freshmen, they were the only players on that team that had played an NCAA Tournament game.¬† They were the only players that won a tournament game or tournament series during their course of time.
So they had some pretty valuable experience amongst the group prior to them, and certainly the group they are with now.
They came back in the best shape‑‑ Matt moved out to the side because he doesn't get a chance to train, really recovering from his injury that he's been dealing with.
But the other guys came back‑‑ in better shape than in four years.¬† I think his mind is in the right place and focus is in the right place.
Tanner Sorenson has contributed to our team offensively but we need him to take a step from where he was last year.¬† He has demonstrated in his off‑season that he's prepared himself to do that.¬† Now it's time to do it.
R.J. Boyd has done the same thing.¬† He's committed himself, stayed here all summer and trained real hard.¬† He's hungry.¬† He's a draft pick and he wants to play beyond here‑‑ all those guys would love to play beyond here.
I hope that all of them can take that next step to help get us over the hump, because I want to see them have a chance to benefit from the success that they have had to help us grind through the last couple years.
And you know, all of them didn't have the kind of years‑‑ none of them, really, with the exception of R.J., I thought his season progressed last year but the other three guys didn't have the kind of seasons that they hoped for coming into last year.
Not many teams have success without success from their seniors in any sport.¬† And so even though we have a small class, it would be nice to see those guys have lots of success and enjoy success from the transition we've been going through and they have been a part of.
Q.¬† Can you talk about the renovations, what exactly do you see those renovations being and what exactly does that do for the program long‑term to get up to speed?
COACH ANASTOS:¬† I think it just keeps Munn current.¬† I think over time, both chill well (ph) and are practical things to add to a facility like that.¬† So I'll just start with the things that took place this summer.
The ice surface probably the most important part from our perspective and the player perspective, because that's where you spend all your time.¬† The ice is terrific.
And the boards and glass are really player friendly.¬† They meet the NHL specifications.¬† The glass that we have now is a lot more body friendly; not that concussions are in the news or anything but they are easier on your head than the tempered glass that doesn't budge.
So the boards you'll see when we play, our boards have always been traditionally lively and they are going to be every bit, maybe even more so than in the past.¬† So we're real excited about that.
But then you look at the next steps that are coming:¬† We're adding some lighting.¬† We have already had these new lights put in which have been a nice addition and we are adding some additional lighting that will really add to the ambiance of the facility, more so for the fans and certainly our players feed off the fans.
We'll be adding video boards and score boards that will really be game changers in this building, and then adding new seats to this building is going to change the whole appearance to it.¬† And we keep going on with player amenities, locker room areas, all that kind of stuff as it comes down the road.¬† It's just going to turn what to me is already a terrific environment and great hockey building into an even better building.
So there's not a bad seat in this house.¬† Some people have had their seats for 40 years and people love being able to watch the game, you're close to the action, and now I think all these other things are going to add to the environment.
In the end, when you bring players here or prospects here they want to play in a great environment.¬† Between our student section and in the last couple years we've been in Top‑10 in attendance, we want to continue for that to grow and we're selling out every night and that will happen as we continue to win with the consistency and this will be just an off the charts environment to play in that every player is going to want to play in.
Q.¬† I'm fascinated by the goal scoring or lack of it.¬† Looking at your list, I don't think anyone that's played here in the last 15 years is even in your Top‑30 of goal scoring.¬† I know it's changed but I saw Mike score 57 and he was just a good player.¬† Can you coach goal‑ scoring or do you have to recruit it?
COACH ANASTOS:¬† No, I think you have to recruit it.¬† I do think you have to recruit the skill set that goes into goal scoring.
At the same time, I'll give you an example.¬† Matt Berry is a goal scorer.¬† He's a goal‑scorer and he'll go to those areas that are tough to go to, and that's why he scores goals.¬† And he's done it at every level that he's played.¬† It's very unusual to see somebody who has never scored in their life all of a sudden score goals at this level.¬† So you look at history for sure.
Strategically, however, you can also do things to increase your probability to score if you can execute them.¬† And those are the things that as we are improving our talent level and our skill set, you know, we are looking to try to expand how we play from an offensive standpoint and that starts right in your own zone.
So we have examined our game closely to see how we can we tweak it or improve and give ourselves a higher probability to create scoring chances that will then result in the opportunity to score more goals.
Recruiting is definitely a part of it and it's been a focus for us the past few years.¬† You know, guys like I mentioned MacEachern and Haag; Cox, while he's not been a huge goal scorer but has goal scoring history.¬† Stenglein, he has lots of scoring history.
Those guys have been brought in for that reason, to help us improve our offensive ability.¬† We are doing the same on defense.¬† You'll see guys come in here over the next couple years that have a history of creating offense and even scoring goals from back in the blue line.
Q.¬† The idea of playing that offensive style, even if it meant losing‑‑ is that harder to do than you imagine just to remain competitive?
COACH ANASTOS:¬† Interesting you ask that, because I think we have lost games at times because we have not wavered from the philosophy of trying to play more up‑tempo and more on the attack.
The reason we have done that is we feel it's really important to our recruiting to be able to track the kind of players we are targeting to demonstrate to them and not just tell them when you get here, we are going to change our style, but rather, here is how we're playing, watch us, and if we get guys that can play with that skill level at that tempo, we are going to get better and better and better.
Yesterday, we have been doing a pretty in‑depth study of our game with some of these advanced statistics that you read about.¬† And it was interesting, I had asked a group to help us study how we're playing in sections of the game‑‑ I won't bore you with the details at this point.
How we play compared to NCAA Championship‑contending team and Stanley Cup‑contending teams.¬† And the data overwhelmingly supported what we are doing is very consistent with those elite teams.¬† So that's on the good side.
On the area that we have to improve is our execution of the things that we're doing and that goes to our skill set, our experience, our ability to do it at a higher tempo and that's what we'll be focusing our game on.
We came into the season‑‑ we came out of last season thinking, we felt we made progress with that.¬† But we have to take bigger steps to get better results.
And so we're staying on that course.¬† We feel that playing with tempo, being on the attack, being very aggressive, trying to be a puck possession team, to be a championship‑calibre team, you have to be good at those things from our own zone on out.
Goes without saying you have to be a good defensive team but we are staying with that philosophy because we think we're right on track.¬† We just have to be able to perform better and execute better than we have to date.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports