Eaves remembers ‘Badger Bob’

first_imgEaves said sophomore goaltender Joel Rumpel has separated himself from Landon Peterson early in the year.[/media-credit]As the University of Wisconsin Athletic Department prepares to honor one of its most successful coaches, men’s hockey coach Mike Eaves remembered the life of “Badger Bob” Johnson.The ice sheet at the Kohl Center will be renamed “Bob Johnson Rink” Friday prior to the Badgers’ game against Colorado College. In his weekly press conference Monday, Eaves said Johnson had a widespread impact on himself, the program and the game itself.“He was cutting edge all through his career,” Eaves said. “Because of the type of mind he had, he would stay on top of things.”Johnson coached at Wisconsin for 15 seasons and won three national titles during his time in Madison. Eaves was a member of the 1977 NCAA Championship team coached by Johnson.Eaves and Johnson later reunited in the professional ranks. In 1983, Eaves joined the Calgary Flames, who Johnson coached at the time.“I wasn’t cognizant of what he was doing [in Madison]. I was just too young,” Eaves said. “Having a chance to play for him again in Calgary, I was in a more mature place in my life that I was able to appreciate.”Eaves recalled the night Johnson was taken to a Pittsburgh hospital after he suffered a brain aneurysm. UW’s current head coach learned of the news and traveled to Pittsburgh, describing that period as a “tough time” for everyone involved, including Johnson’s wife, Martha.Martha will be on hand Friday to drop the puck before the game.“I think it’s so apropos that she’s dropping the puck,” Eaves said. “She was right by his side the whole time.”When asked what characteristics of the current Badger team Johnson would appreciate, Eaves pointed to the competitiveness of his own team. Eaves also said Johnson was particularly fond of the power play.Eaves added that Johnson’s death at age 60 was a loss for hockey in the U.S., calling Johnson and former U.S. National team coach Herb Brooks, who also died at an early age, “icons” of the game. He lamented the loss of the two coaches and wondered how profound their influence on the game may have been had they lived longer.Wisconsin’s coach said he learned even more about Johnson after his playing days came to an end. In the early stages of his coaching career, Eaves discovered Johnson was a capable handyman, electrician and family man.“That’s something I never thought I would never hear about Coach,” Eaves said. “When I knew him, he was just all about hockey.”Reporters asked Eaves if Johnson would be capable of coaching in the modern era.“Without a doubt,” he said.Kerdiles suffers injuryFreshman forward Nic Kerdiles, currently serving a 10-game suspension, suffered a minor medial collateral ligament injury Saturday while playing for the United States under-18 team, Eaves said.Kerdiles’ injury won’t require surgery, but he will be out for a few weeks because of the injury.Eaves said he hopes to have Kerdiles back one week before the team begins a series with Denver on Nov. 30.The highly-touted freshman forward is in the midst of serving a suspension handed down by the NCAA less than two weeks ago. The NCAA ruled that Kerdiles violated its amateurism code by accepting an improper benefit from a professional hockey agent.The NCAA initially suspended Kerdiles for the entire season, but his suspension was reduced to 10 games after UW appealed the decision earlier this month.Rumpel winning battle in front of net Eaves addressed the play of two of his goaltenders and said one has “separated” himself from the other with his performance so far.Sophomore Joel Rumpel has been granted more time in the net because of his consistency this season, according to Eaves. Rumpel has been the goaltender for three of the Badgers’ four games this year. The other option between the pipes, sophomore Landon Peterson, saw his lone action in a 4-2 loss to Northern Michigan Oct. 13.Rumpel has boasted a higher save percentage and goals against average rate than Peterson so far this season.“There’s a little space now,” Eaves said. “It’d be silly to say anything less.”last_img read more

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Massey catching on to life behind home plate

first_imgAnyone who watches baseball or softball knows that the position that most often comes at a premium with a shortage of quality players is the catcher.It’s hard enough to find someone who wants to crouch behind a player wielding a metal weapon – in this case it’s called a bat – and try to catch a ball flying at speeds of 70 miles per hour. But it’s even harder to find a player who can hit well too, and along with that, and arguably most importantly, have a very close relationship with the pitching staff.Wisconsin senior Whitney Massey has checked off all of those prerequisites, and according to pitching coach Tracie Adix, Massey’s major strength as catcher comes in one of the most important areas.“Comfort, I think,” said Adix of what Massey brings to the position. “I just think the pitchers are in a much different groove with her back behind the plate. … I just think they’ve built a comfort level with Whitney behind the plate that really helps them just get into a tempo that they need to have during the game.”But that comfort level Massey has developed with the pitching staff – which includes Cassandra Darrah, Meghan McIntosh and Taylor Paige-Stewart – hasn’t always been there, mainly because Massey hasn’t always been behind the dish. When she came to Wisconsin, Massey was originally recruited as an outfielder, although she played primarily catcher in high school, and eventually made the transition to second base after she began her career with the Badgers.Massey had been the backstop for the Badgers sporadically over the course of the three previous seasons, but it wasn’t until the fall season this year that head coach Yvette Healy and her assistants really thought about her as a permanent option.At a recent practice, Healy discussed what brought on the decision to move Massey from second base to catcher.“Whitney caught for us a little in the fall, and she caught two no-hitters, and we said, ‘It’s worth giving her another look.’ She’s not flashy and she doesn’t jump off the page as a catcher, but there’s something about her way of catching and working with the pitchers and putting them at ease that really has gone the distance. And we just thought we’d see in the fall,” Healy said. “And to catch three more no-hitters this spring, it’s pretty amazing.”The fact Massey has caught three no-hitters this season is special in itself, but what makes it more special is that the last time any Wisconsin pitcher threw a no-hitter before this season was all the way back in 2001.Perhaps it is merely a coincidence that Massey has caught the three no-hitters, but Healy certainly doesn’t think so.“I don’t think it can be a fluke. You’d like to say maybe one in the fall, well maybe it’s just coincidence. But you look at that, and I think catchers get overlooked. In the Major Leagues, there’s a fraternity of guys who’ve caught no-hitters. They talk about that as being a big badge of honor, and I think she takes it really seriously and she takes a lot of pride in it,” Healy said.Even though Massey has just started catching on a regular basis, it is not something that is completely foreign to her. She started out catching at a young age, and along the way has caught some premiere talent, including one of the best players to set foot within the pitching circle in Monica Abbott.As Massey explained, she holds a fairly extensive record behind the plate and catching Abbott – who has played at the college, professional and Olympic levels and is the NCAA all-time leader in wins, strikeouts, shutouts, innings pitches, games started and games pitched – certainly has added to her experience a great deal.“I started off catching when I was seven, so I’ve been catching for over 10 years. It wasn’t until I [verbally committed] here that I switched positions – I was recruited as outfield here,” Massey said. “But it’s nice to just come back and catch. I catch Monica Abbott when I go home, so she helps me a lot.”Healy referred to her catcher as “small” and “quiet” behind the plate, but although she may be quiet behind the plate, she carries a big stick when she steps up to the dish. With her 15 doubles on the season, Massey surpassed the Wisconsin record of 32 in a career, and currently sits with 47 to her credit. And with a home run against Ohio State Sunday, Massey leads the Badgers in home runs this season with nine, not to mention she is also ninth in career batting average at .304.Still, the coaches and Massey know there is certainly room for improvement as with any player, but with how she has performed so far this season, don’t expect to see Massey anywhere but behind the plate anytime soon.“Outfield was fun just because you could dive for a bunch of things and throw runners out at home. And second, I get mentally tired after second base. I feel like I’m thinking on every single play. With catching it just comes natural,” Massey said.last_img read more

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