CEDAR RAPIDS - Scott Moldenhauer's hockey resolve was tested at an early age.
He moved with his family from Grand Blanc, Mich., to Oak Ridge, N.C., when he was 12. Oak Ridge is near Greensboro, by the way.
There's a great hockey scene in Michigan. In North Carolina, not so much.
"The whole state, they don't know a whole lot about hockey," the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders defenseman said. "Only around the rink, they do."
Moldenhauer hooked up with the Carolina Junior Hurricanes' program, a youth offshoot of the NHL team. That was all well and good, but he had to make the hour-and-a half trip from Oak Ridge to Raleigh, N.C., for practice multiple times a week.
How badly do you want to play hockey, son?
"I played in Raleigh for three years, so it was pretty tough," he said. "Lots of carpooling. It was tough, but I battled through it."
Moldenhauer garnered an invite last year to be part of the Colorado Thunderbirds AAA program in Denver. He was taken in the 2012 USHL draft by the RoughRiders and provides a hulking presence (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) on the backline.
He and forward Andrew Oglevie are the only guys to have played in every game this season. Cedar Rapids hosts Des Moines and Green Bay this weekend.
"It's been really great here," Moldenhauer said. "I love it. I've got a great billet family, and I feel right at home. I love the coaching staff, everything. Probably the best experience I've had in my whole hockey career thus far."
"Scott is physically a strong young man who continues to work diligently on his game," Riders Coach Mark Carlson said. "We expect Scott to contiibute even more during the second half of the USHL season and continue to improve."
The plan is for Moldenhauer to come back and play in Cedar Rapids next season. Then it's on to Western Michigan University, where he'll get to play for former NHL Coach Andy Murray.
He'll also be back home, to a place that knows and loves hockey.
"All my family is from Michigan, so I think it'll be really cool," he said. "I'll probably get to see them all a lot. I love the program and the coaching staff, Coach Murray. His experience and how he runs his program. The campus is really cool. I went there, and I fell in love with it."