UND WOMEN'S HOCKEY: Lamoureux sisters take path less traveled
Jocelyne Lamoureux was a freshman at Minnesota when she was asked the question -- one that would eventually alter the course of women's college hockey in the West.
"Would it mean more if you won a national championship at Minnesota or North Dakota?" a friend randomly asked.
Lamoureux didn't hesitate. It was a no-brainer.
"North Dakota, duh," she said.
The answer, and the ease of which it came, alarmed her.
If she had these types of feelings for North Dakota, the school her mother, father and three of four brothers attended, why is she at Minnesota?
These thoughts rolled around her head for a few nights. She discussed it multiple times with her twin sister, linemate and best friend, Monique.
Finally, they both agreed: Let's go home.
"Jocelyne and I had a couple of long conversations," Monique said. "We had a conversation with a very good family friend before we talked to our parents. When we talked to our parents, we weren't asking for permission. We were telling them that this is what we were going to do."
The decision stunned the college hockey world.
Minnesota was fresh off of a run to the NCAA Frozen Four, had the cupboard stocked with high-end recruits for the future and was perennially in the mix for national titles.
North Dakota had never finished in the top half of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, had never won a playoff game, had never been nationally ranked and had never come close to making the NCAA tournament.
Minnesota had produced two players who reached 100 points in a season. North Dakota never had a player reach 100 points in a career.
"In women's athletics across the board, there are a lot of dynasties and programs that repeat as national champs over a 10-year period," UND coach Brian Idalski said. "For them to take on a project, to come here to create something special, is rare. It's something that doesn't happen a whole lot."
The Lamoureuxs knew they could stay at Minnesota with other Olympians and high-end players around them, break every scoring record in the country and win multiple national championships.
Instead, they opted for the unknown.
They wanted to turn around a North Dakota program that had been so dear to them growing up in Grand Forks. They wanted the women's program to become like the men's program, which has won seven national titles and annually is among the best teams in the nation.
"I talked to my brother, Jacques, about a year ago," Jocelyne said. "He won a lot of awards when he was at Air Force. He told me that those awards sit on shelves and collect dust. Those aren't the things you remember. And I really took that to heart.
"It's not about who broke scoring records and school records. We play a team sport. Being able to come here and leave this program in a better spot than when we got here is more important."
This weekend, they will play their final game in Ralph Engelstad Arena. It will be a playoff contest against Minnesota State-Mankato (2:07 p.m. Friday, 2:07 p.m. Saturday and, if necessary, 2:07 p.m. Sunday).
And, undoubtedly, the program is in a much different position than when the twins arrived.
UND, which finished last in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association the year before their arrival, has finished fourth, third and second in the last three years with the Lamoureux twins. The team is in the mix for its second straight NCAA tournament appearance.
While they will be gone next year, the future is bright because the recruiting game has turned for the coaches since their arrival.
Rather than hitting the trail for overlooked prospects that might be able to compete, UND has started going after -- and landing -- blue-chip players like 2012 rookie of the year Michelle Karvinen, current standout freshman Meghan Dufault and superstar Canadian recruit Halli Krzyzaniak.
"The legacy they leave behind will go way beyond the points and wins," Idalski said.
But the points and wins have been aplenty.
Jocelyne became the WCHA's all-time leading scorer last month, surpassing the total of U.S. Olympian Hilary Knight, who starred at Wisconsin. Jocelyne now has 275 career points, well ahead of Knight's 262. Only two players in the history of women's college hockey have tallied more points than Jocelyne.
If Monique tallies four more points, she will also catch Knight, which is remarkable considering Monique spent half of her college career playing defense. This year, Monique has 49 points in 25 games at defense (1.96 points per game) -- the most prolific season ever by a WCHA blue liner and second only to women's hockey legend Angela Ruggiero, who played a decade ago.
Total their numbers together and they are absurd: 229 goals, 304 assists, 533 points and a plus-282 rating.
Playing for UND
When the Lamoureux twins grew up in Grand Forks, there was no women's hockey program.
One time, while skating at Purpur Arena, former UND men's coach Dean Blais had a chat with them. He asked: "Where are you girls going to play?"
Jocelyne answered: "For you. For the men's team."
Maybe they weren't far off. They played on a boys bantam team in Grand Forks -- and dominated -- before going to Shattuck-St. Mary's. The twins then led Shattuck to three national titles.
UND eventually started a women's hockey program, but it was in disarray when it came time for the twins to pick a college. UND made a midseason coaching change after a 3-31-2 season, and the Lamoureuxs opted to go elsewhere.
Both twins say they don't regret their year at Minnesota. But even a year with the rival Gophers couldn't remove their deep UND roots.
"Every time the national anthem ended at Minnesota," Jocelyne said, "I would put my head down and say 'home of the Sioux.' Not because I wasn't fully there, but it's part of who we are, part of our family and part of tradition. I feel like it's fitting that we end our college careers here."
Monique said: "We had a great year hockey-wise and we met some great friends. But I think it made us realize what we have here with the program."
The impact of the twins' arrival at UND was significant. Immediately, it gave the WCHA a new contender, just as the Lamoureuxs hoped it would.
"Failure was never a thought that crossed our minds when coming here," Jocelyne said. "Fearing that we wouldn't be able to do it hasn't taken up any space in my heart or my mind. It hasn't been an option."
Minnesota, Wisconsin and Duluth had finished in the top three in every non-Olympic year. UND has now knocked Duluth out of that mix the last two seasons.
Attendance at Ralph Engelstad Arena is up 287 percent since their arrival.
"I always felt that if we had a solid program, that this is a hockey town and people would come out and watch," Idalski said. "The twins, quite honestly, accelerated that curve."
Fans have started to expect winning seasons out of UND. And they've watched the women's program start to mirror the men's program in terms of style of play.
"When you're part of this program, people take pride in how hard you work," Monique said. "The men's team might be talented, but they rarely get outworked or outmuscled. That's the way we play."
UND is entering the playoffs on a 10-game unbeaten streak and the final destination is unknown. The team could miss the NCAA tournament by decimal points like it did two years ago. Or it could make its first-ever Frozen Four run.
But no matter how the year ends, the UND program has been forever changed.
"Life will have a new chapter in a couple of months," Jocelyne said. "Right now, we're focused on one thing. We're striving to hang a banner in this place. It's going to be tough. We're going to have to beat some good teams, but we're prepared. When it's over, it's going to be sad. I'm not going to look back on any regrets.
"Our family is going to need to start popping out some more kids."
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