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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum Communications Co., Published October 22 2010

Sioux women's hockey now in a position to be expected to win

GRAND FORKS – For the third straight week, the University of North Dakota women’s hockey team has set a program record for the highest national ranking.

The Sioux are at No. 6 this week in both polls, which creates a situation this weekend that the ninth-year program has never faced: UND is expected to win.

After going 4-2 against No. 4 Boston University, No. 1 Minnesota-Duluth and No. 3 Minnesota, the Sioux are playing at unranked Minnesota State-Mankato tonight and Saturday afternoon in games that they will be favorites.

“We’re kind of expected to do well and win points on the road,” UND coach Brian Idalski said. “That’s not something that was said a whole lot in the past. The maturity in our club and the leadership has been really strong. I anticipate a lot of internal discussion, without the coaches around, about doing your business and taking care of your jobs this weekend.”

In the past, there have been series were UND could earn victories. But this might be the first one where those around the country think that the Sioux should earn victories.

That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy.

The Western Collegiate Hockey Association is again looking like the country’s dominant conference. Five of the eight teams are ranked in the top 10. One of those teams that is not in the top 10 is Bemidji State, which beat then-No. 1 Mercyhurst last weekend.

The unranked Mavericks are 1-2-1, having lost twice to Duluth last weekend.

“Every weekend is going to be a battle,” Idalski said. “I’m glad that women’s hockey is developing that kind of depth. You go into a weekend not knowing who is going to win. That elevates the game, not only in college, but globally as well.”

Down to earth

Last weekend, UND became the first team to sweep Minnesota in Ridder Arena in four seasons. It has only happened three times in the history of the program. All three teams that have accomplished the feat went on to win the national championship.

So, there was a lot of celebrating in the UND locker room after the game. But Idalski thinks his team is back down to earth.

“We addressed that last week was over and we had some work to do,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll have too much of a hangover from patting ourselves on the back. It was a good weekend, but there are no trophies in October.”

Idalski also said he’s been carefully managing his team, which is playing with a shortened roster.

“Our energy is still pretty good,” he said. “But we’re also being very cognizant about holding off on some off-ice conditioning. It’s really just monitoring and making sure they’re not getting run down, making sure they stay strong. We’ll have to toe that line between doing too much and not enough for the whole year.”

Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.