Three months before the 2018 Olympic Games, Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux weren't sure that they'd make the team.
U.S. coach Robb Stauber benched the twin sisters for the entire Four Nations tournament in November, offering little explanation. He continued to scratch them in pre-tournament warmup games against Canada.
Just before Thanksgiving break, Stauber and U.S. general manager Reagan Carey brought in two new players-one forward, one defenseman. That meant one more forward and one more defenseman were going to be cut. Jocelyne was playing forward, Monique defense at the time.
"We were pretty unsure of where we were sitting as far as a roster spot goes," Jocelyne said. "It was the most stressful time of our careers, for sure. When it's totally out of your control, there's nothing you can do but show up, work hard and try to put yourself in the best situation possible."
They did make the team in late December. The coaching staff told Monique she would be moving to forward-a position she hadn't played in four years-and that the Lamoureux twins would be third- or fourth-line players.
"The expectations was that we were going to have limited ice time," Jocelyne said. "But whatever opportunity we were given, Monique and I were going to make the most of it. That's how we approached the games. We were going to make it impossible for us not to be game-changers. Every opportunity we had, we were going to be difference makers."
Were they ever.
Despite playing limited minutes, the Lamoureux twins were not only the drivers of USA's most prolific line in the tournament, they delivered when it mattered most.
Trailing 2-1 late in the third period of the gold-medal game against Canada, Monique scored the game-tying goal on a breakaway. Then, Jocelyne scored the game-winning goal in a sudden-death shootout on a dazzling move that will live forever in USA Hockey history.
They delivered the U.S. its first hockey gold in 20 years, and they became the first born-and-raised North Dakotans ever to win an Olympic gold medal in any sport.
For their historic performances on the world's biggest stage, the Lamoureux twins are the 2018 Grand Forks Herald Persons of the Year.
"For us, with everything we had to go through this season, you couldn't have written a better ending," Monique said. "To play the role we did and have the outcome we did, obviously, it's extremely special for us."
Because the way the Olympics unfolded-and because of the post-Olympic tour that included appearances on The Ellen Show and the Tonight Show-few remember the bumpy ride that the Lamoureux twins took to get to the gold.
"Last season was the most adversity we've had to go through as individuals and players on the national team," Monique said. "I think once we found out we made the team, we figured our ice time wasn't going to be what we were used to the last few years.
"But no matter if we were playing a lot of minutes or limited minutes, we were going to be difference-makers and make the most of our ice time. When we found out we were going to be on the same line together, we said we're going to be a big reason why this team wins the gold medal. That's the approach we took every day."
The Lamoureux twins did play limited minutes, but continually came up big. Jocelyne led the U.S. team in both goals and points in the Olympic Games. Monique finished third on the team in goals and points.
Their line-centered by Kelly Pannek-was USA's most consistent throughout the tournament. But it's not the point totals that everyone will remember. It's the clutch moments at the end.
Delivering the gold
The Lamoureux twins ended the heartache for the Americans-and themselves-at the Olympics in the most dramatic way.
They had been to two previous Olympic Games. Both ended in crushing losses to Canada in the final.
In the 2010 Vancouver Games, Canada's Marie-Philip Poulin scored both goals in a 2-0 Canadian win. The Lamoureux twins, and Warroad's Gigi Marvin, brought home silver medals.
In the 2014 Sochi Games, the U.S. held a two-goal lead late in the third period, but the Canadians rallied to tie it, then won it in overtime. Poulin scored both the game-tying and game-winning goals.
It appeared that was going to be the script again in 2018 as Canada held a 2-1 lead late in the third period-Poulin had the go-ahead goal-but the Lamoureux twins changed it all.
Monique caught Canada in a line change with 6:21 left in regulation and scored on a breakaway, putting her wrist shot just underneath the glove of star goalie Shannon Szabados.
"It all happened so fast," Monique said. "I was at the end of my shift and I would have gone for a line change if I hadn't seen the puck coming around the boards. Kelly Pannek made a great pass to me.
"I knew I was going to shoot. Shooting is more my strength. (UND associate coach) Peter Elander always told me that I'm a shooter. I didn't really have a lot of back pressure. I knew I had a lot of time to pick where I was going to shoot. I picked my head up and put it under Szabados's glove."
The game went into a sudden death shootout, where Jocelyne was picked as the sixth shooter.
Jocelyne did not go for simplicity. She skated in, faked a shot to get Szabados to drop, moved the puck to her backhand and faked another shot, then pulled it all the way back to her forehand, where she slammed home a highlight-reel goal.
It was bold for Jocelyne to even try the move.
On a big stage like that, if she were to miss, she would have been second-guessed for attempting a dazzling move at that point in the game.
Earlier in the tournament, Jocelyne was awarded a penalty shot and tried a similar move. She was stopped and second-guessed.
Jocelyne never considered playing it safe, though.
"It doesn't look great when you try a move and it doesn't work," Jocelyne said. "But I'd rather go down swinging, trying something like that than to come in and play it safe. That's not what has worked for me. I've found success in shootouts before doing something like I did in the gold-medal game.
"Some players are going to play it safe. But I'd rather go down swinging than not doing something that's worked for me in the past just because I'm scared of the moment."
Jocelyne worked on her gold-medal move repeatedly with Elander in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
After the game, the Lamoureux twins mentioned Elander's work in national television interviews. Elander called Jocelyne and left a voicemail. Jocelyne still has that message saved on her phone.
The gold-medal celebration and victory tour lasted for months.
When they got back to the United States, the Lamoureux twins made stops in Los Angeles, New York, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Orlando, New Jersey, Savannah, Ga., and Portland, Ore.
Now, they're back at home in Grand Forks.
Monique and her husband, Anthony Morando, became parents in December. Jocelyne and her husband, Brent Davidson, are expecting.
It's the cap to an unforgettable year for the twins from Grand Forks, who delivered Olympic gold for USA Hockey.
"Obviously, winning a gold medal is a dream come true," Jocelyne said. "But to win it in the fashion we did-to do it the way we did with the adversity-it couldn't have gone any better."