Top lines can dictate success for Denver, North Dakota

Denver players raise their sticks at the end of the formal part of practice Wednesday (photo: Melissa Wade).

TAMPA, Fla. — When Denver faces North Dakota on Thursday in the second semifinal game of the Frozen Four, fans of college hockey will get a chance to see two of the top lines in the country square off. Denver’s Pacific Rim Line of Danton Heinen, Trevor Moore and Dylan Gambrell will try to match North Dakota’s CBS line of Drake Caggiula, Brock Boeser and Nick Schmaltz.

The teams have faced each other five times this season, and so far, the success of each squad’s top line has dictated the results of a 2-2-1 season series.

In the first two games Dec. 4-5 in Grand Forks, N.D., Boeser, Caggiula and Schmaltz scored six of North Dakota’s nine goals in 5-1 and 4-0 wins while racking up 10 points total. Gambrell, Heinen and Moore were held without a point.

In the rematch in Denver on Feb. 12-13, the Pacific Rim Line dictated the play with 18 points and six goals in 6-4 and 4-1 wins. The CBS Line was held to six points and two goals. That was indicative of an overall strong second half for Gambrell, Moore and Heinen, who struggled at times in the first half.

“I think in the begriming of the year we weren’t doing the little things right, I think, being on the right side of the puck and winning our battles,” Heinen said of the way the Pacific Rim Line caught fire in the second half. “As the season has gone on, I feel Coach Monty has really stressed that with our line and I feel like we’ve done a better job of that lately, and it leads to more offense.”

In what was originally thought to be the rubber match in Minneapolis in the consolation game of the NCHC Frozen Faceoff on March 19, it seems fitting that in 1-1 tie, the two lines matched each other, each getting a goal and two assists.

“It’s kind of like our power play — when we’re working, things seem to work,” said Moore. “When we are working hard our skill takes over, so we just need to make sure we are working hard. I really think we got a lot more comfortable with talking to each other and being open about things. If we didn’t like something that happened, we talked about it and just worked through some stuff.”

Asked about any plans to control North Dakota’s CBS line, Denver coach Jim Montgomery expressed confidence in all of his players ability to battle, while also subtly teasing North Dakota coach Brad Berry.

“We have four good lines that can play 200-foot hockey,” said Montgomery. “We don’t have last change. They’re going to be able — and I’m sure every time there’s an offensive zone draw, they’ll be out there two out of every three. And we’ll expect that and put out the line that we think can win the faceoff on that side of the ice. Besides that, I’ve already kind of publicly tried to challenge Coach Berry to go head to head, CBS against Pacific Rim. It would be a helluva show, but he wants to go with his defensive line against them. Maybe he’ll bite halfway through the game.”