TAMPA, Fla. -- Denver coach Jim Montgomery doesn’t anticipate getting his wish.
He wants to see his prolific top line -- Trevor Moore, Dylan Gambrell and Danton Heinen -- matched up against UND’s dominant CBS Line -- Drake Caggiula, Nick Schmaltz and Brock Boeser -- during Thursday’s NCAA Frozen Four semifinal game in Amalie Arena (7:30 p.m., ESPN2).
But Montgomery doesn’t have last line change.
Every time there’s a whistle, Montgomery has to put out his lines before UND coach Brad Berry. So, Berry can dictate line matchups.
“I’ve already kind of publicly tried to challenge coach Berry to go head-to-head, CBS against Pacific Rim Line,” Montgomery said. “It would be a hell of a show. But he wants to go with his defensive line against them. Maybe he’ll bite halfway through the game.”
Montgomery is assuming that Berry will try to match up the line of Rhett Gardner, Luke Johnson and Austin Poganski against the Pacific Rim Line.
Gardner, Johnson and Poganski played against Michigan’s dominant CCM Line -- which featured three Hobey Baker Award finalists -- two weekends ago in Cincinnati. The CCM Line was relatively quiet in five-on-five play in the game.
Johnson said he’s anticipating the large role in Thursday’s matchup.
“Obviously, we’re going to be playing against their top guys,” Johnson said. “For us to be successful, we have to take away their time and space and make it hard on them. For us, part of that is playing in the offensive zone, playing down low below the dots, protecting the puck and not giving it up. I think that’s our key to success.”
Hot and humid
Thursday’s game will be the farthest south that UND has ever played a hockey game.
The closest to this would be December 1978, when UND played Northern Arizona in a two-game series. One game was played in the Phoenix area. The other was in Flagstaff.
The warmer and more humid whether is something that both teams have addressed. They both have talked about hydration being an important factor.
“We’ve got to hydrate and you’ve got to keep your body temperature cool, because you do sweat profusely here compared to Denver,” Montgomery said. “And they’ve just got to realize that they’re going to have to deal with that tomorrow night. So, our shifts are going to have to be shorter than usual.”
The Pioneers have a couple of close connections to Tampa and Amalie Arena, which usually is the home venue for the NHL’s Lightning.
Denver assistant coach David Carle is the brother of Lightning defenseman Matt Carle. Matt was on Denver’s last Frozen Four team in 2005. The Pioneers beat UND in the national championship game that season.
Denver’s media relations contact, Rick Bowness Jr., is the son of Tampa Bay Lightning assistant coach Rick Bowness.
The team held its weekly, day-before-the-game shootout competition on Wednesday.
Johnson was the winner, outlasting Drake Caggiula, Coltyn Sanderson, Trevor Olson and Bryn Chyzyk.
Per the normal tradition, UND piled on Johnson after winning it.
When the national media asked about it, captain Gage Ausmus said: “That’s why I don’t win shootouts. So, I don’t get dogpiled on.”
Many observers noticed that the Fighting Hawks were a loose, laid-back group.
They had a few moments of levity at practice, mixed in with its usual work session. Berry says that’s by design.
“I think there’s a balance,” he said. “They’re hungry. They’re focused. They’re committed. They’re dialed in right away. But at the same time, there’s a little bit of levity there as far as being a human being and enjoying it. We’re all about that. Tomorrow is game day and they’ll be ready to go.”
Notes and quotes
- Carle said hello to UND forward Nick Schmaltz during the team’s practice Wednesday. Carle was an assistant coach for the Green Bay Gamblers in the United States Hockey League when Schmaltz played there.
- At least three NCAA head coaches attended practice Wednesday. Air Force coach Frank Serratore, a former UND assistant, was there. So was Mel Pearson of Michigan Tech and Don Lucia of Minnesota.
- The Frozen Four teams attended the annual welcome banquet Wednesday night. Former Vermont great Martin St. Louis, who won a Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning, spoke at the banquet.