Wisconsin junior and Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Robbie Earl is one of the most exciting players to watch in all of college hockey. Earl leads the Badgers in goal scoring this season with 24 goals. He finished second on the team with 50 points (24 goals, 26 assists), and was named the Frozen Four Tournament MVP after Wisconsin’s 2-1 win over Boston College on Saturday to lay claim to the 2006 National Championship.
Hockey’s Future spoke with Earl before team practice on Friday and after Wisconsin’s championship win over Boston College on Saturday.
HF: First off, congratulations on winning the National Championship.
RE: Thank you
HF: One thing that has been discussed about you guys as a team is that this whole process from the beginning of the season to winning the national championship is like climbing a mountain. How would you describe the journey going from the beginning of the season to where you guys are at right now?
RE: That’s a good question. It is a long journey. Our coach says that it’s like climbing Mt. Everest. It’s an eight-month journey that starts in August. We’ve had an easier road up earlier in the season but then in January we had hit a couple of bumps in the road. We were able to get past that and at each stop we try to get a little bit better. Now we are at the top. It’s just gradually getting there. We just kept doing what we’ve been doing and here we are.
HF: So what does it feel like at the top of that mountain now that you’ve made it?
RE: The view is pretty good. I really like and it really is a great feeling too.
HF: Can you talk about your team’s great penalty kill against Boston College? They got several power play opportunities and you just shut them down each time.
RE: Yeah, our penalty kill was working all year and it was working again tonight. It’s about our pride in our penalty killing and that’s pretty much about it.
HF: You were named the MVP of the Frozen Four Tournament. How was that for you?
RE: It’s an individual award and it’s hard to be overly gratified because it’s a team effort, but it is a great feeling.
HF: You had a pretty good game tonight against BC but you also had a great game against Maine on Thursday too. Can you talk a little about that one?
RE: I had a timely goal to go up 3-1 and that really lifted our spirits to get through the game. The other goal allowed us to put the game away. It’s a really great feeling to get that win and be a part of that.
HF: You, along with Joe Pavelski and Adam Burish have been clicking so well together all year long, yet you guys are such different players. What is it about the three of you together that just makes it all work?
RE: You hit it on the head, that we’re all different players. I’m more of the dynamic, offensive guy. Joe is more of the playmaker, making all the plays and feeding me the passes and Adam is able to make space for us and he does a good job of that. I think all the different personalities and all of the different playing types kind of compliment us.
HF: With everything that you have gone through, what do you feel was the most significant part of your developmental process as the season has gone along?
RE: I think it’s just adjusting to the ups and downs of the season. We were on a high 18-2-2 ride in the early part of the year and then we kind of slipped. I tried to be kind of a leader to help get us back to the caliber that we could be. That was kind of a tough thing for me having to battle through those times. But now, it’s evident that going through the tough times has paid off because we’re here and we battled through those tough times and been able to get ourselves back on our feet and get back to working towards what we’ve wanted to achieve.
HF: You’re one of the more electrifying players in the collegiate ranks, is that an attribute that you’re naturally born with or was that something you developed over your hockey playing years growing up?
RE: You’re born with that kind of excitement. I love to score goals and I love being the offensive type. I enjoy it and that’s my game. I try to stick to my strengths. I also love to shoot the puck and use my speed as well. That’s all part of being an electrifying player and I take great pride in that. So I just think that it’s something that you’re born with. I enjoy being that type of player (smiling).
HF: One thing that seemed to motivate you guys over on the bench was the crowd. They were so loud and so supportive of you guys. What was that like being on the bench and being able to see and listen to all of that?
RE: Oh, it obviously gives us that upper hand to have that kind of fan support behind us. It was unreal. To have 18,000 fans behind you going wild is a great feeling and a great atmosphere, and continually lifting our spirits too.
HF: What are some of the things that you’d like to continue working on to help make yourself a better player?
RE: I’d like to become a well-rounded player, to be better along the walls and to be better physically. For me, it’s just rounding out my entire game and become that type of player. I have that offensive skill already so it’s just maintaining those effective things and get better at playing along the walls that will help me get to the next level. I just want to develop my body. It’s just that development process that goes along with being able to go up the ranks.
HF: Being one of the few African-American players in college hockey, have you been able to become sort of like a mentor to other young African-Americans to help encourage them to pick up the game of hockey?
RE: Not so much right now. I haven’t been fortunate enough to be a part of doing something like that yet. It is something that I’d like to be able to do when I’m established. That’s something that I’m looking forward to doing. Right now, I just need to establish myself as a player so that it’ll help make me better in being in that role.
HF: You were drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Can you talk about what it was like being drafted by them?
RE: Yeah. It was unbelievable. They’re an original six team and it’s amazing to be a part of such a prestigious tradition and organization. They’re a first class organization and it’s something that I take great pride in and hopefully one day, I’ll be wearing a Leafs jersey. It’s a wonderful feeling and I’m just really excited to be a part of that organization.
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