Below are the transcripts of the pre-semifinal Thursday press conferences from the 2006 Women’s Frozen Four.
Wisconsin-SLU Press Conference Participants
Mark Johnson (Head Coach, University of Wisconsin)
Sharon Cole (Player, University of Wisconsin)
Kate Michael (Player, St. Lawrence University)
Paul Flanagan (Head Coach, St. Lawrence University)
Wisconsin-SLU Opening Comments
Johnson: First of all, I’d like to congratulate Paul and St. Lawrence for being one of the four teams left playing for the national championship. Certainly, congratulate Minnesota and UNH for their opportunity to play for this championship also.
We’re real excited to be here, obviously. The last couple seasons we’ve been extremely close and came up short in both of those years.
We really had an exciting games Saturday night down in Madison in front of a packed house. A lot of you can imagine you get into overtime and multiple overtimes you get a lot of tension in the building.
For our young program is was a real shot in the arm because it gives us an opportunity to participate this weekend in the Frozen four. And it creates a lot of exposure back in Madision and across the country in regards to our program.
So we are excited to be here. I look forward to opportunity to watch our team play tomorrow. It should be a real fun weekend; it should be a real competitive weekend and is should be a fun atmosphere.
Flanagan: First of all, I’d like to thank the NCAA for putting on such a great event.
I’ve been having quite a few flashbacks since we arrived yesterday since we were fortunate enough to be here for the first ever NCAA Frozen Four. I think it’s been fun to watch it grow each & every year. It’s been special to be back here again in the Twin Cities. It’s a great venue; a great rink to play at. Certainly hockey is so embraced by the people here. It’s a fun place to be, so we expect this to be a great weekend, not only on the ice but in the fan support.
I’d also like to congratulate Mark, his staff and his team for great year. I think with all the teams here, it’s going to be very competitive. In fact, I look back to last week and all eight teams of the eight teams that were included in the first round, and one of the eight teams could have been here. I think that’s another sign of the growth of women’s hockey and how far we’ve come in the seven years that I’ve been coaching. It’s just so fun to watch and should be a great atmosphere. It’s a great competition and we are excited to be here again.
Wisconsin-SLU Questions & Answers
Q: Are you really hoping for increased attendance?
Flanagan: We can hope. The fact that the University of Minnesota is competing will help. I understand there are obstacles this weekend with basketball playing in town and also with high school basketball. I think the passion people have for hockey out here helps draw people. The fact the University of Minnesota program is so successful will hopefully help out.
Q: How has the previous two years of experience helped you?
Michael: It helps with the nerves being here a couple times and being used to the media being around, with a lot of coverage and more scheduled practices and stuff. Being here the past two years has calmed things down a bit. For the freshman who haven’t been here before, they are still a little bit intimidated. We try to keep things calm in locker room and focus on what we can do and not all the attention around it.
Q: How’s the team doing after Saturday night’s game?
Johnson: Certainly it’s been a fun week of practice since we know we get an opportunity to play again. Last week compared to this week excitement, there’s been definitely more excitement in the air.
Opportunity to get here and to play for the national title has made it a fun week. I know the players are excited. They’ve worked hard. As we talk about in our business, it’s a long season. We start in early September and grind out those long days in January and finally get there at the end. The reward is still ahead of them and the opportunity is still presented. They are very excited about that chance.
Q: You’ve completed in big games both as a player and a coach. How do you draw on experience?
Johnson: I think you give players some cues and something to focus on. Sometimes in big games you can get too excited, then you get on the ice and your legs feel like cement and you don’t play very well. Our focus as a coaching staff is to reflect on things we were able to do and some of the experiences we had in big games and try to you’re your players. The big thing is to try to relax and yet be excited. I think you play your best when you are relaxed and also play with some energy.
Q: Will the larger ice sheet be a factor in the game and did is affect how you prepared for the game?
Flanagan: You mean this ice is bigger than ours? (Laughs) Both teams have to play on the same ice surface. I think we have to make some adjustments. We have to be smarter, especially your defensemen as they make the decisions whether to pinch or not. You have to understand how to use it to your advantage and not make it a disadvantage. This will be our first time on it this year. We looked lost out there this morning at times. But it still comes down to the fact that both teams play on the same surface.
Johnson: I always felt that you play where you play. If you play on a small sheet, then you drop the puck and play. On a large sheet, it’s the same thing. Some teams in our league have big sheets. Then, the next weekend you are in a small arena with not much space on it. I don’t take much stock on it. Hopefully our players are able to take advantage. Sometimes as a player you will be out there looking to create offense with more space. But sometimes it is more difficult with different issues presented. The players still need to execute.
Q: What’s it feel like to be 120 minutes away from the title?
Cole: Our team is very excited, and I know we just want to go out and play. It’s very exciting to play for the national title. One of the biggest downfalls the past couple of seasons was when they only took four teams before and we were the fifth team and not even getting a chance to play. We’re just very excited.
Michael: It’s been such a long season, that we’re happy just to get here. It’s a single elimination game right now; it’s do or die, and just to get here to the Frozen Four has given us a big boost. Just two more games to go and we can be national champions. We might be a little nervous, but our goal is just to focus on the game and have fun.
Q: Discuss what it might be like to potentially play the two-time defending national champions in the title game on their home ice.
Michael: We’re not looking that far ahead right now. It would be a phenomenal atmosphere with the home town fans should that happen, but hopefully our team could feed off of that as well. It would be a great championship game.
Cole: We’re just focusing on game ahead of us. We got to get past the first game to get to the next game. We played Minnesota five times this season, and it’s hard to beat a team that many times.
Q: Is this a dream ending to your career, playing in the Frozen Four in your home state?
Cole: I couldn’t ask for more, I guess. This is where I grew up. I did clinics in Mariucci Arena. It’s exciting and fun to close out my four years in my home state in front of my friends and my family.
Q: What are the challenges in upcoming game?
Flanagan: The unknowns. We don’t much about them. You can read and hear good things about them. It appears there are some similarities with good forwards and depth. We’ll just tackle the unknowns as they enter the game.
Even though we haven’t watched them play, there aren’t a lot of secrets. Both teams are coming off emotional wins last weekend. Getting our own focus and I guess the unknown for us is seeing how we react and play with pressures. That’s what i’s all about; that’s why they play the games.
Johnson: I see a lot of similarities. Even though we haven’t seen each other, you can look their statistics and talk to those who have played them. They are strong in net and with their defensemen. They have skilled forwards who can hurt you. You can describe Wisconsin like that or you can describe St. Lawrence like that. It will come down to which team probably executes better tomorrow afternoon and which group can collectively do that best over 60 minutes.
Minnesota-UNH Press Conference Participants
Laura Halldorson (Head Coach, University of Minnesota)
Andrea Nichols (Player, University of Minnesota)
Martine Garland(Player, University of New Hampshire)
Brian McCloskey (Head Coach, University of New Hampshire)
Minnesota-UNH Opening Comments
Laura Halldorson: “Its just a great time for our team right now because it’s a long season I think a lot of people before the season started, questioned whether or not we would be here right now on our own campus in Mariucci Arena, But here we are part of the big event and we are really excited about it. I think the top the top four teams in the country made it and it should be some great college women’s hockey this weekend.”
Brian McCloskey: “We are obviously excited to be here in this event that we hosted last year and didn’t participate as a team and watched Laura’s team walk off with the big trophy and play some outstanding hockey, but its just always a great event and to see how much it has grown. I think our season has been an interesting one and unlike maybe Laura’s she knew what she was losing, we knew we had some pretty good players coming back, like Martine and we had an interesting class of freshman, but we didn’t know where we stood and whether we’d get here. Our season has been similar to Laura’s, its been piece by piece. We didn’t come into the season expecting to be here. It’s been a pretty fun ride.”
Minnesota-UNH Questions and Answers
Q: What is your biggest concern of your opposition?
Halldorson: “New Hampsure has had an incredibly successful season. What I know about them is that they have a lot of depth. They are a very balanced and talented team and we are going to have to find a way to beat them.”
McCloskey: “Laura’s got a another very good skating team, which seems to be one of their trademarks. It’s going to be an interesting contest, I don’t know if we have ever played a team as quick as Laura’s. I think our biggest concern is can we handle the puck and make good decisions up against a team as quick as they are.”
Q: Coach Halldorson, after losing what you lost last year, How much credit is it to your program that you were able to get back here?
Halldorson: “This year had a very different feel. We knew that we were not the same team as last year, we are very young and it took us a while to establish roles and to create our identity. I think the biggest thing that assured me that we would be successful is the type of kids we have, the character of our players, the chemistry that they have developed, great staff that I have and the hard work that went into the season. I think when you have all those ingredients, added to an Olympic season when all the Olympians are gone and its wide open, I am really proud of the players and the work they put in.”
Q: Martine, how do you think you’ll match up to Minnesota’s quickness and have you been well prepared in practice?
Martine Garland: “We are fortunate to play against great forwards in practice, but It’s [Minnesota] a different team and little bit of an unknown and I think we have prepared. Its been a big week preparing for this and I think we are up to the challenge and excited for it.”
Q; How is going to be facing Minnesota on their home ice?
Garland: “Its exciting, I’m assuming they will have a big crowd and hockey’s big out here like it is in New Hampshire. Its just going to be a great experience, they have a great rink and I think they are going to have a great crowd so I think its going to be a lot of fun.”
Q: Andrea why don’t you talk about the opportunity to play a championship on your home ice?
Andrea Nichols: “Anytime you get the tournament in your home town its an exciting atmosphere. It’s just going to be another unbelievable experience to be in another Frozen Four.”
Q: What experience have you passed down to the freshman going into the Frozen Four?
Nichols: “Telling them what its like so they are not in awe, but at the same time, every year the team’s different and it’s going to be a different experience.”
Q: Andrea, could you talk about being the underdog?
Andrea: “Overall we have faced some tough teams this year and I don’t really look at it as us being the underdogs. I think its just going to be really good to see two really good teams face each other.”
Q: Laura, you have spent a few years trying to get the attendance back up, how much difference do you think being back in Minnesota and the fact that you guys are in the tournament?
“I’m really curious to see what our attendance will be because I have been very vocal about wanting to try to raise attendance for women’s hockey. There is a lot of competition this weekend for media to get to different events and for fans to spend their money at different championships this weekend. I really hope that the fans in Minnesota will come and get a taste of the best women’s hockey in the country. How ever many people will be there I think they will be vocal.”
Q: What about the familiarity of being here and not being in a foreign environment?
Halldorson: “It’s a little bit of a home game and a little bit of an away game. We decided not to stay in a hotel, yet we moved from our locker room over to Mariucci and we are going to spend a lot of time together this weekend with team meals and various functions. We want to take advantage of the things that make it a home weekend, but at the same time have our players feel they are at the national tournament.”
Nichols: “Event though its in our backyard it is a different atmosphere. It’s more media and probably a bigger crowd and unpredictable things that may not happen in a regular season game.”