Thursday, March 24, 2016

NCAA Northeast Regional Quotes: UMD vs Providence

WORCESTER, Mass -- With the regional beginning on Friday, all four teams convened at DCU Center for practices and press conferences.

Here are the transcripts for the UMD and Providence College pressers, as provided by the Holy Cross sports information staff.

UMD was represented by head coach Scott Sandelin, senior forward Cal Decowski, and senior defenseman/captain Andy Welinski.

Opening Statement:
SANDELIN: “It’s exciting to be here and be one of the teams playing, it’s a great regional. The whole 16-team field is going to be a real battle, it’s pretty wide open. Our guys are excited to get back into the tournament and we are excited to get going tomorrow.”

On NCAA tournament experience:
SANDELIN: “It helps knowing what you are getting into, as far as the games that isn’t a lot different, you prepare for your opponent like you do every week. Last week, we saw a team in Minnesota that we had played four times already so you see a lot of teams. Our first year guys, in the conference tournament have been playing against 10 or 12 thousand people, and we could get here and be playing with four or five thousand, sometimes for them to understand from the older guys that it might not be like your conference tournament is important. Little things like that help what is to be expected, but when the game starts, it’s pretty much the same. You have to play and you have to play close to your best hockey every game to continue to play.”

On the unpredictability of the NCAA Tournament:
SANDELIN: “We can look at a lot of first time winners in the past five years, the whole game has become very even, there are still the great teams, but a lot of teams have made college hockey a lot better. There are no easy games in college hockey at any point of the year and as a coach, we need to make sure the guys understand that. It’s been great for our game.”

On the motivation of the NCAA tournament:
SANDELIN: “I certainly hope the NCAA tournament is motivation enough, when you look at the college hockey season, you’ve got three seasons. You try to get to the third, and that’s what we are in right now. You have the regular season, your conference championship and the NCAA tournament. The goal of every team is to be one of the 16 starting this tournament. If you’re not motivated you probably won’t be along very long. Some teams have had time off, some teams have won conference championships, and obviously we lost in our final, but we need to re-group our guys, refocus, reset and understand that this is hopefully a four-game season now.”

On seedings being irrelevant in the tournament and coming from the back of the bracket:
DECOWSKI: “Yeah, I think they’re irrelevant. I think that all 16 teams that are still out there are good teams, and I think that’s kind of up for grabs. We don’t really think much about the seedings, we’re just going to go out there and win it.”

WELINSKI: “Definitely on the same note, I think teams are confident this time of the year. They’ve obviously won some games to get into this position in the top 16. And coach touched upon as well that any team could win this thing, and it’s pretty wide open. There’s a lot of good teams, and it’s going to take good hockey to win.”

On Welinski being from Duluth, Minnesota and attending a college in his hometown:
WELINSKI: “No, I have no regrets at all. I was able to play junior hockey in Green Bay, so I was out of town for a couple years, but had the opportunity at a young age to commit to the University of Minnesota Duluth. I really like where I grew up, and the hockey program there was on its way up for sure, so I’m very happy with that decision in staying, and it’s been a memorable four years for sure. I think from a life standpoint, I’ve had a great time there, met a lot of great people and I’ll be able to leave with a degree in the spring. Hockey wise, I think development has been fantastic there, and I’ve had a really good time doing it.”

On Welinski growing up a big Minnesota Duluth fan:
WELINSKI: “Yes, all the way up—season tickets, and I kind of jumped at the opportunity when I had a chance to play here.”

On a different feel for the second tournament appearance for the players:
DECOWSKI: “I think it’s kind of nice knowing the set up and what’s going on here. I think just having that little bit of experience from last year, instead of just jumping into it blindly—we have a lot of guys who have been here and know what’s going on. So, with the big stage you get used to it.”

WELINSKI: “Yeah, I think obviously every team that’s here, their confidence is high, playing wise. I think that is a big thing for us. Having a lot of our team go through what we’ve gone through before is obviously big. Everybody is going to have to play every game to win playoff hockey, and I think just knowing the background of (like Cal said) having been here before and experiencing the surroundings a little bit is good.”

On Minnesota Duluth’s perception and respect for Hockey East:
WELINSKI: “Absolutely, they produce good teams every year. I think they know we’re happy with the league we’re in, in terms of competition wise. I know the competition out here is great too. They produce good teams, and I think absolutely there’s some respect for them. They’ve kind of proved it—especially the past two years here. They’ve got the competition and the ability to win.”

Providence had coach Nate Leaman, joined by forward Brandon Tanev and defenseman Tom Parisi, both seniors.

Opening Statement:
LEAMAN: “We are really excited to be here. We are excited to get back to this stage. It was one of the challenges that we put in front of our team at the beginning of the year, that out of the past 10 national champions, only four of them had made it back to the tournament. We realized that it was going to be a tough year and we were going to have to get everyone’s A-game to get back to this spot. We are very excited to be here and very happy to be here and are looking forward to playing tomorrow night.”

Responding to Tom’s reply for what the team learned from last year’s experience:
LEAMAN: “If you remember also last year, Tom was the guy after our first game that was held for two and a half hours by the NCAA to do the drug testing. (To Tom) So you should probably remember to not drink as many fluids.”

On the ice conditions:
LEAMAN: “I thought the ice was good. The guys could maybe speak better about the ice. I thought the ice was okay. The pucks weren’t frozen so they were bouncing a little bit, but the boards were live, so its going to be a fast game. The boards are very live here.”

On being defending national champions but not being picked to win the league:
LEAMAN: “That’s a good question. Well again, basically after we won the National Championship last year, about two weeks after we won it, we sat down and had a pretty good meeting and pulled some video of some of our practices and pulled some video of some of our weight training just to kind of show the guys and remind the guys all of the work that goes into the season. We wanted to leave the guys with the message basically of how hard they are going to have to work this summer. Then as soon as they got back to campus we put the challenge right away to them that out of about the last 10 national champions only four of them have been back and of the four that made it back, I believe only one of them had won a game. So, just to let them know that this is going to be difficult. What we are going into is going to be difficult and it’s unchartered for us and to set the tone. We are fortunate that we have nine seniors on the team and they kind of took that challenge and it made them hungry, so I think that is really the tone for our team this year. You know, we don’t control what we get in the preseason polls. We don’t control that stuff, we’ve never controlled that stuff and we don’t worry about that stuff either, it is what it is. Last season, our season was very much like Duluth’s where they were preseason number one in their league and they were learning to fulfill those expectations. This year, we were a preseason pick number four and obviously when you have an All-American goaltender sign early, I think we had holes to replace. We had an All-American goalie and we have a center man that’s in the NHL right now, but we had guys step in and fill those holes for us.”

On goaltender Nick Ellis and how he has stepped up this season:
LEAMAN: “Well, the story about Nick Ellis is his freshman and sophomore year. That is the real story about Nick Ellis is how he handled being behind Jon Gillies, how he worked so hard every day and how his practices
were and his games. I mean Nick was our hardest working player for his freshman and his sophomore years without a doubt and when he got his opportunity, he made the most of it. He’s had a terrific year. The guys like playing in front of him and he’s a terrific teammate. It is a fun story as a coach to see someone when they
weren’t playing and he didn’t put his head down, he didn’t pout, he didn’t come see the coach for four differen meetings. He just kept getting better and better and now he’s got his opportunity and he’s run with it.”

On practice today:
LEAMAN: “We just want to get the guys used to the rink. Get used to the boards, get used to the rink and feel the puck a little bit. And then you also want to get some banging in there and some contact in there because I think this is going to be an effort game. I think there is going to be contact in this game. I think it is going to be a physical game and a heavy game and so we wanted to get a little bit of that in there also and kind of set the tone for the guys with what to expect and get them as familiar with the rink as they can be.”

On the teams that are in playoff mode:
LEAMAN: “I think there is a lot to be said for that. The seeds in this tournament don’t mean anything and it is something we have talked about as a team. When you get to this tournament, there is no such thing as an underdog and there is no such thing as a favorite. I think the teams that are successful at this time of year are the teams that improve the most. Sometimes when you go through a lot of struggles throughout the year, it forces you to improve and improve and improve. So I think there is something to be said for the teams that maybe have to play their way in or really have to finish strong because those teams are improving so, we were the exact opposite this year, we were a team where we pretty much knew we were in. But we set the tone with our players at the beginning of February that we have to improve, we have to keep improving. I was very happy we played Merrimack in the playoffs and Lowell, because they are two very tough teams. Two really tough playoff teams and those games made us better, so yeah there is a lot to be said for that."

On the change in perception from being a 16 seed coming in and this year’s reigning national champions:
PARISI: “I really don’t think it means too much, to be honest with you. It’s the best 16 teams in the country. Last year, we were a four seed and this year we are a one seed. To us, it’s irrelevant. It’s just about getting the job done and all 16 teams here can win a National Championship, and we’re going to try to do that as well.”
TANEV: “As Tom (Parisi) mentioned, I think it’s a great opportunity to be back in the NCAA tournament and you don’t think about all that stuff. All you think about is who you’re playing again Friday night and you think about what you can do to win that game against Minnesota Duluth on Friday, and everything else we just push to the side and think about what we can do.”

On applying last years’ experience to this season’s tournament:
PARISI: “I think just how to handle ourselves physically, how to take care of our bodies and just being through the whole experience. It was a tremendous experience and we were very fortunate to be there and now we have that experience to take and learn from and maybe do some things differently this year around.”

On some of the things that can be done differently/lessons learned from last year:
PARISI: “I don’t know necessarily differently, but just overall focus and just preparation - learning some tips here and there and how to handle ourselves.”

On the conditions of the ice:
PARISI: “It was good. The boards are live, like Coach said so a lot of bouncing pucks and behind the net. It was good though.”

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