Third line gives Wisconsin depth late in season

first_imgGREGORY DIXON/Herald photoThe Wisconsin women?s hockey team is counting on one factor to set them apart from other teams as they get ready for the playoffs ? counting on their dynamic third line.Sophomores Kyla Sanders and Jasmine Giles, and freshman Kelly Nash make up arguably the best third line in the WCHA, and the Badgers are relying on the team?s deep roster to help them in the playoffs.?If the depth you have is quality depth, then it is certainly going to help you,? head coach Mark Johnson said. ?The third and fourth groups as you go through the season are certainly going to win you hockey games, and if you can work with them and make them better, then that is just going to make your team that much stronger.?Because UW has relied on at least three, if not four, lines all season, it believes it will have fresher legs than most of the competition, such as first-place Minnesota-Duluth, which has relied on just two lines for most of the season.?At this point in the season, you can?t really [play] just two lines, no matter how good those two lines are,? Giles said. ?At this level, no athlete can withstand the pounding their legs would take if you were to only use two lines. We are lucky that our team is good enough to have used three, sometimes four lines, the whole season. I think that will be our greatest asset going into the postseason.?Another benefit of such a deep team is competitive practices. Because the team is so similar in talent level, the Badgers believe each practice improves the entire team, not just a portion.?It doesn?t matter who you are practicing against, because it’s always going to be a good battle,? senior Jinelle Zaugg said. ?Everybody pushes it to the limit in practice because everyone wants ice time. We battle back and forth, which I think is great because it helps everybody improve.?Johnson?s reliance on using all of his players during the season has helped prepare the program for the future. The young third line of Sanders, Giles and Nash has gained valuable experience this season, which will pay dividends next year.?It helps a lot that our third and fourth lines get to play,? Nash said. ?As opposed to other teams, where the third and fourth lines don?t play as much, we will have a lot of experience next year, when some of us will be on the top two lines.?The line’s two sophomores, Giles and Sanders, have proven they are better than the average third-liner.Giles is tied for second on the team with 17 assists and already has more assists this year than total points from last year.?Jasmine is a very good competitor, and obviously being a sophomore, things aren?t new to her this year like they were last year,? Johnson said. ?She seems more comfortable, she is more confident ? so when she started the year she was ready to go. Both mentally and physically she has gotten stronger from her first year.?Sanders is fourth on the team with 14 goals and, like Giles, has already surpassed her point total from last year.?While she may be on the third line, she also plays on one of the power play units, and she is one of our best penalty killers,? Johnson said of Sanders. ?Those kids who get those opportunities are asked to produce, and she has certainly done that. Over the summer she dedicated herself to getting stronger, and it has certainly paid off.?According to Johnson, improvements over the summer will be key for these players to make a jump from the third line to the top two lines.?Well it is like anything, they have to be focused, and they have to work hard,? Johnson said. ?They have to continue their strength training and conditioning programs. [Nash], being a freshman, will have to spend a lot of time in the summer working on those areas. Everyone has areas that they can improve on, and if you focus and work hard, you are going to improve.?last_img read more