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UND WOMEN'S HOCKEY: Molle's play encouraging for Sioux

With three of the top five scorers in the country, the UND women's hockey team doesn't have a lot of questions up front. "I think most people understand that the area we need the most growth is the defensive area," head coach Brian Idalski said. ...

With three of the top five scorers in the country, the UND women's hockey team doesn't have a lot of questions up front.

"I think most people understand that the area we need the most growth is the defensive area," head coach Brian Idalski said.

That's why the play of junior defenseman Candace Molle has been an exciting development for the Sioux, who are enjoying a week off after going 6-1-1 in the last eight games.

Molle is the team's top defensive scorer with a goal and six assists for seven points in 12 games. She's only three points shy of matching her career high of 10, which she reached a season ago.

The Anchorage, Alaska, native also has been strong in her own end, as evidenced by her plus-9 rating -- three better than any other blue liner on the team.

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"She's played really well," Idalski said. "We're pretty happy with her development. It's definitely taken a step forward this year. There are still a couple of little things for her to work on, but compete-wise, footwork. . . all of that has been really good."

Idalski said Molle's biggest improvements have come in the defensive end.

"She's been lights out," Idalski said. "She's moving the puck quick and has been really solid and physical defensively. We'd like her to increase her offensive game a little bit and maybe contribute a little more offensively, but defensively, she's been terrific. She's moving the puck a lot better and a lot quicker."

Molle has been able to put up the strong numbers, despite a difficult schedule to start the year for the seventh-ranked Sioux. They've already played top-six teams Wisconsin, Boston University and Minnesota-Duluth on the road.

After the off week, UND has 11 of the next 13 games at home (and one of the two "road" games in that stretch is 25 miles away in Crookston, Minn., against Bemidji State).

That stretch features opponents that UND should be able to take care of, like St. Cloud State and Lindenwood. It also features heavy hitters Minnesota, Minnesota-Duluth and Wisconsin.

"No doubt, the next four weeks are huge," Idalski said. "We have to take care of business. We can't afford to lose points in games that we should win. If we want to reach the next level, we also have to beat the Minnesota Duluths and the Wisconsins of the world."

With a break to recharge the batteries and some improved play from defensemen like Molle, UND is looking forward to next weekend's home series against Minnesota State-Mankato.

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"I think the break will do us well," Idalski said. "During the first two months of the season we've been at Wisconsin, at BU and at Duluth. That's a tall order -- a stretch of games that a lot of Eastern teams don't go through during an entire season, much less a two-month span."

Reach Schlossman at (701) 780-1129; (800) 477-6572, ext. 129; or send e-mail to bschlossman@gfherald.com .

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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