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March 17, 2017

Tony Granato

Luke Kunin

Will Johnson

Detroit, Michigan

Wisconsin - 2, Ohio State - 1

TONY GRANATO: I just think that today's game was what you want to see in college hockey. It was a battle. I think every inch of ice was battled for, two teams that understood what was available to them.

And certainly we were in a position where we had to win. I thought our guys played one of our most solid games of the year. They competed, like I said, for every inch of ice, and obviously it was a battle right until the last play of the game.

Real happy with the effort, and looking forward to tomorrow's challenge when we find out who we're playing after this game.

Q. Will, can you describe the desperation level of your team tonight? Seemed like there were a lot of blocked shots, especially on penalty kill in the third period, a lot of want to protect that lead?
WILL JOHNSON: Yeah, obviously we're going to want to defend our lead. Ohio State is a very offensive team and they keep attacking. When they're in the offensive zone, we've just got to bear down and try and block the shots and try to get out of the zone as quick as possible.

Q. What did you do to prepare for this week after last week, to play against Ohio State and shut down their offense the way you did?
LUKE KUNIN: Yeah, I think from the beginning of the week, Monday, we talked about just sticking to a game plan and wearing the team out, and I thought we did that throughout all three periods. And everyone just bought into what we had to do to be successful tonight, and I think that's why we played so well.

Q. Luke, your ability to stop their transition game seemed like a big thing compared to last weekend. They didn't get as many chances or if they did they were able to pull them off quickly. Was that a focus going in?
LUKE KUNIN: Yeah, for sure. They transition quick, and like to throw guys off the ice and like to get into footraces.

I thought our forwards did a good job of getting back, staying in the middle, and our D did a good job of keeping them on the outside. All the forwards played well, you know, D, and then Berrs was kicking good behind us, so I thought it was a great effort by everyone.

Q. Will, you knew it was going to be kind of a play where you had to get to the net at that point, you were transitioning yourself in that one, and it seemed like Seamus made a play and got you the puck?
WILL JOHNSON: Yeah, I mean, it all started from him winning the face-off in that defensive zone. We got the puck out, and I mean, that move he made first on the defensive at the blue line was unbelievable, and then him getting the puck over to me, I mean, I just had to tap that puck in. He made all the plays, but it just ended up working out. I drove the net and he found me, and that's his skill is finding guys on the ice, and it was perfect.

Q. Luke, usually when Ohio State is on the penalty kill, they've kind of gifted teams with some goals. Tonight they were fairly sharp. What was the difference, do you think, in your mind just them defensively there, and did that mean you guys just had to be that much tougher on your defense?
LUKE KUNIN: Yeah, I think we did a good job of setting up, and we just didn't connect all the dots. I thought toward the end there we had the one off the post and whatnot. But they were sound defensively, especially on the kill, and really throughout the whole game, I thought. When they pushed, we pushed harder, and we kind of elevated ourselves throughout the game to get the job done.

Q. Will, having confidence in your goaltender is so important. Was there a stage of the season because he was such an unknown guy, Jack Berry, a walk-on, was there a stage or a game or a weekend where he got your attention and you knew he was for real?
WILL JOHNSON: Well, I think when Matt went down the first time and he had to step up and be our goalie, be the starter there, I think that was when we first started seeing him as an amazing goalie. We all knew coming in he was an amazing goalie to begin with, but when Matt went down he had to step up and be our guy for us, and I think he's been doing an amazing job ever since.

Q. I wonder if you can speak to the team's desperation level, what you've seen from other teams and maybe what you saw from Ohio State last weekend against you, and you were kind of the aggressor in that way tonight.
TONY GRANATO: It's a very good point by you. I think last week, we were a little bit on our heels for the first time all year as far as kind of waiting to see how the game was going to be played. And you know, it was the first time we were in the position, too, to secure a bid in the tournament.

It was a new thing for our team, we're still learning about ourselves, so we didn't handle it as well as we would like. But I loved our week of practice, I loved our week coming into today's game. I loved the way we played the game. And I agree, I think this was -- I said this a few minutes ago, this is what college hockey is. It's two teams that have a ton of pride, two teams that have been -- well, certainly one team, they were ranked in the top 10 pretty much most of the year. So it's a heck of a hockey team we played. We had some success against them earlier in the year.

We knew we had to play a really solid road game. Even though we're both on the road, it's still a road game, and I think that's the mindset we came into it with, play solid defensively and try to wear them down with some forecheck and long offensive zone shifts and stuff like that. We did that a lot in the second period.

The other plan was to come out of the penalty box. I think we only had the two penalties. Those were the two big factors in the game. And like you mentioned, when did we know Berry was going to be a goalie for us, I think that first exhibition game he played for us, it was like, wow, this kid has got very good potential. I loved his poise all year, and his development has been consistent, but I loved how he's prepared, and I think our team in front of him played nice and relaxed knowing that he was going to make the save and we've just got to clear rebounds for him.

Q. Now that you're back in the Joe, what was the difference in the atmosphere, comparing the college and NHL level?
TONY GRANATO: Well, I would like to have seen a few more people in the seats, but I loved being back in the building. This is a historic building. I enjoyed my two years here more than I could even tell you, working for Kenny Holland and Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch and being part of the Red Wings for two years, a special organization.

So I'm glad I had that experience, and to come back here brings great memories mostly of the people and the history of this organization and the tradition. There's so much pride in Red Wing hockey, and to come back here and be able to play in its final season, whether it be college or it wouldn't matter, it's exciting.

Obviously for our team, this is a huge weekend for our team to try to get a tournament bid, and hopefully we'll play the same way tomorrow and we'll have great memories of my last two games here.

Q. You spoke briefly about the defense. Specifically some adjustments, Mason Jobst had a good weekend against you guys just a week ago. What were some adjustments you made?
TONY GRANATO: Well, one of the things that I thought was different last weekend, we let them get a lead, and that was huge tonight for us on how we started the game.

Again, I think we weren't on our heels like we were last week, kind of just -- we were trying to play defense last week. This week we played defense by playing good offense. When it was in our end, we blocked our shots when we needed to, but we got out of our end quick. And I thought we did a much better job, and Kunzy and Will both mentioned a little bit about it, of their transition game.

If you forecheck hard and you don't give them time to be able to turn the puck up the ice, it makes it awful hard on them. And I thought we did a really good job of that tonight. They had some chances, but they didn't get consistent chances by making long plays up the ice.

Q. The Big Ten is still relatively new in the hockey league. How has the quality of play been in your opinion night in and night out?
TONY GRANATO: Outstanding. Outstanding hockey. I mean, we've had unbelievable games. Even our games against Michigan and Michigan State, who were the 5 and 6 seeds, were dogfights and battles.

I just love our league. I love how the quality of hockey players that are in it, I love the coaches that we coach against because I think they're all outstanding. I think we've got -- I can't compare it to the other leagues, but I know we've got a premier college hockey league, and our players -- there's elite players on every team that will play in the NHL for a long, long time. And I think it's very competitive. I think it's great hockey.

And I'm sure we're going to see a phenomenal game tonight in this Penn State-Minnesota one, and hopefully we'll see a phenomenal one tomorrow, as well.

Q. What's been unique about this league coming in as a first-year coach compared to maybe some of the other leagues?
TONY GRANATO: Well, one of the things I've heard on college hockey in the past few years was that it was getting real defensive and teams being real conservative offensively and playing defensive systems, and I have not found that anywhere in college hockey. I've seen outstanding offensive hockey games. I've seen end-to-end action. I've seen brilliant skill level.

So the teaching part from our standpoint, we're a development league. We're trying to develop kids to play in the NHL, and I think to do that, how we play and especially how our conference plays, letting kids play, letting kids make plays, that's how you develop, and I think our league does a heck of a job doing that. And it's exciting. And like I said, it's going to be a lot of kids that will have chance to see play a long time in the NHL after this.

Q. As you were game planning this week against a very high-powered offense, can you describe the contributions of Mark Osiecki?
TONY GRANATO: He's phenomenal. Been around a lot of coaches, and to have him on the bench, watch his patience and how he's helped develop our back end -- we're relatively inexperienced on the back end. Our blue line is relatively young, and we've made great strides. I think tonight was probably as consistent as we've played defensively as a defensive group, but he's just had a huge impact. He's coming from the Blackhawk organization. His reputation and what he's done for defensemen that are now playing in the NHL, he helps them develop and mature fast, and I think he's done a heck of a job with our group. Thanks for that question. That's a great point.

Q. Your penalty kill in the third period, you had your big guys out there, Luke and Trent and Peter and Jake for a lot of it. Did they do what you needed them to do to kind of seal --
TONY GRANATO: It was big, obviously, at that point of the game. The chips were short and there were a couple whistles that were able to get short changes. The most important thing on the penalty kill is you have to have energy, and you can't overplay guys just because they're your best penalty killers because if you're tired you're no good, so we had to make sure we got the freshest guys out there of our penalty killers, and obviously they did a heck of a job. I liked that power play at the end. That might have been our best power play of the year the last two and a half minutes. That was brilliant hockey. So I mean, you kill two and a half minutes of a power play, you kill most of it the first two minutes in their end, and not giving them a chance and they're chasing you around the rink, I thought that was really smart hockey, and I've got to give a lot of credit to our guys. They're not forcing anything and keeping puck possession and never giving them a chance to get (indiscernible) until right at the end.

Q. To only take two penalties and give up -- two times on the penalty kill, that was a key obviously given how good Ohio State has been on the penalty kill all year. Talk about how big that was in the game but also your team to put yourself in a position where you had to take penalties. You only have two penalties --
TONY GRANATO: Great point by you because when you're playing defense and you're on your heels, you take more penalties because you don't have the puck as much, and I thought tonight with how much we had the puck, how much we played in the offensive zone, you take less penalties because the other team is chasing you around, and I thought maybe that was part of last week's issue. We had to do a lot of hooking and holding because we played a lot without the puck.

I thought tonight that was a huge difference, and you can play much more disciplined and better defensively and take less penalties when you're on your toes and playing as aggressive as we did offensively.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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