JAKE NAUGHTON/Herald photoIn his press conference Monday, Wisconsin men?s hockey coachMike Eaves sang high praises of his team?s freshmen and their play againstrival Minnesota over the weekend.?Realistically, I would say that our freshmen have done whatwe thought they would do in terms of coming back from the break and not lookinglike freshmen, in terms of them taking that next step,? Eaves said Monday. ?Nowcan they do things by the end of the year? I would say ?yes? to that. We?ve justgot to not put any limits on them, continue to coach them.?Despite their strong play as of late, however, Eaves stillmentioned that he and the coaching staff have needed to guide them through adifficult stretch in the team?s schedule.?Right now, we?re in a position where we still have to haveour hand on their lower back, for different reasons I think more so thanearlier in the year,? Eaves said. ?But it?s still always there.?Eaves was particularly pleased with the play of freshmanPatrick Johnson ? a Madison native whom Eaves has been able to follow over theyears.?I think with Patty Johnson, I know that people look at hisnumbers and go, ?That?s a little bit surprising,?? Eaves said. ?Knowing Patrickand having watched him since he was 15, I think ? there were some things yousaw that indicated that he was going to be a pretty good college hockey player.??He has stayed on that path and continues to grow. It?s funto watch.?Johnson, the son of the Wisconsin women?s hockey head coachMark Johnson, scored the team?s first goal and earned an assist on the secondin the Badgers? 2-2 tie with the Gophers on Saturday. Johnson is now fourth onthe team in scoring, scoring six goals and tallying 11 assists through 26games. According to Eaves, Johnson?s strong play as of late can becontributed to consistency.?As he?s coming in the second half, I think we?re seeing alevel of consistency and confidence that we can now say he?s doing some prettygood things for us.?Another of the team?s freshman, Kyle Turris, has lived up tothe hype he garnered in the preseason, Eaves said.?I would say that with Kyle, he?s doing about what weexpected,? Eaves said. ?All of our freshmen have turned that corner and aredoing some good things.?Turris scored a goal and picked up an assist in Friday?s 3-1win. He missed four games while playing for Canada in the World JuniorChampionships in the Czech Republic, but still leads the team in scoring with26 points, including 10 goals.?Crucial stretch aheadThe difficult schedule Eaves alluded to in his pressconference has seen the Badgers on the road in Denver and Alaska inback-to-back weekends. During the road stretch, Wisconsin lost a controversialgame in the opener against Denver, but rebounded with a convincing 7-2 win inthe series finale to earn a split. After being away from the Kohl Center fortwo weeks, UW returned home to face Minnesota and will take on Minnesota-Duluththis weekend. The Badgers and Bulldogs are currently tied for fourth in theWCHA standings.?We?re really into a grind in terms of our schedule ? beinggone, coming back, playing an emotional series against Minnesota, and now we?reat home again against people that are right there with us.?Despite selling out their home games, Wisconsin hasstruggled on their own ice, picking up just two sweeps in seven series. Eavesattributed his team?s struggles at the Kohl Center to the added pressures thatcome with playing in front of their home fans.?What the energy has to do with is the awe of playing inthis building,? Eaves said. ?We talked about how Denver likes to come in here.They seem to feed off it. Some teams, they get back on their heels. I think forthe home team, there are expectations that are there. I think they feel some ofthose expectations and the pressures of that.?