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UND HOCKEY: Second line also plays a key role

UND's top line, nicknamed the CBS Line, receives a lot of attention as the highly skilled trio of Drake Caggiula, Brock Boeser and Nick Schmaltz consistently have wowed college hockey.

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UND's top line, nicknamed the CBS Line, receives a lot of attention as the highly skilled trio of Drake Caggiula, Brock Boeser and Nick Schmaltz consistently have wowed college hockey.

UND's second line has a simpler nickname and share a smaller portion of the spotlight than its CBS Line teammates. However, the second line brings an important element to the table for the Fighting Hawks, who play Northeastern on Friday at 1 p.m. in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Cincinnati.

Luke Johnson, Rhett Gardner and Austin Poganski comprise the "Heavy Line."

The nickname isn't too imaginative. The Heavy Line speaks to the size of Johnson (6-foot, 194 pounds), Gardner (6-2, 215) and Poganski (6-2, 204).

"It didn't take long (to develop the Heavy Line nickname)," Johnson said. "Right when they put us down on the sheet we all noticed we are the bigger bodies. We were just joking about that. Rhett and I are trying to lose some weight, so we'd like to think we're the lighter guys on the team. It's funny it worked out that way."

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The Heavy Line has played together for eight consecutive games, a span that included six straight wins before a loss and a tie at last weekend's Frozen Faceoff in Minneapolis. The line was brought together in hopes of slowing down opposing top lines.

"I think our first idea is to shut them down," Poganski said. "If we shut them down and then get some time in our offensive zone, we can get something going offensively.

"At this point of the year, it's crunch time, and you have to do the things it takes to help the team win. It's our responsibility to shut them down, and we're embracing that role."

One of the keys to the success of the Heavy Line is puck possession, due in part to the unit's faceoff numbers.

Gardner has won 245 faceoffs this year, 84 more than any other NCHC freshman and the second-highest total by a UND freshman since the school began tracking faceoffs as an official stat in 2003-04.

Johnson is also strong in the circle, winning a team-best 54.6 percent of draws. He won 62.3 percent during UND's four conference playoff games, including a league-leading 67.7 percent at the Frozen Faceoff.

Johnson (9 goals, 10 assists), Poganski (9 goals, 14 assists) and Gardner (9 goals, 5 assists) also can all bring an offensive skill set.

"For us, we create offense down low and use our big bodies to protect the puck and cycle it down low," Johnson said. "Lately, we've been creating chances and gaining momentum with having shifts in our offensive zone."

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Whether UND's second line is finding success offensively or defensively, it's a difficult group to play against physically.

"I know myself, and I can speak for the other two here, we like being the guys who are hard to play against," Johnson said. "I think all three of us can bring a physical presence to the lineup. I love finishing checks and making it hard on the other team's top guys. I think all three of us take pride in that."

Related Topics: UND FIGHTING HAWKS HOCKEY
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