Climbing for gold: Is the third Olympics a charm for Lamoureux twins?
GRAND FORKS — When the U.S. Women's Olympic Team arrived at a Tampa, Fla., rink to play a scrimmage in December, their opponent, a local boys prep team, was wearing Canada jerseys.
It was an idea by the USA coaching staff to get the team's attention and focus, trying to simulate a gold-medal game against its biggest rival.
But for Grand Forks natives Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux, Warroad, Minn.'s Gigi Marvin and three other teammates — Hilary Knight, Meghan Duggan and Kacey Bellamy — it probably wasn't necessary.
Canada has been their focus for eight years now.
The group of six had their hearts broken in 2010, losing to Canada 2-0 in Vancouver in the gold-medal game.
They had their hearts shattered in 2014, blowing a two-goal lead in the final four minutes of regulation and losing in overtime in Sochi, Russia — a bitter silver-medal finish that has stuck with them for the past four years.
Fueled by the Sochi heartbreak, the U.S. has beaten Canada for gold in all three World Championships since then. But the six players who suffered defeat in Vancouver and Sochi are ready to finally jump that hurdle on the Olympic stage and bring home USA's first women's hockey gold since 1998.
"Between the six of us, we know what we have to do," Jocelyne said. "There's an unspoken understanding of each other that we all have. We're just focusing every single day. We show up and know that every detail matters. Every play matters. The focus and concentration has really mounted within our team."
The Lamoureux twins searched for inspiration throughout this Olympic year — and found some in a fellow Grand Forks native.
The twins read coverage of Grand Forks Central graduate Andrew Towne's conquest of Mount Everest and his completion of the Seven Summits — climbing the tallest point in each continent. They were fascinated by it.
They contacted Towne and tried to arrange a meeting. Coincidentally, Towne already had a business trip planned for Tampa, where the U.S. team was centralized, and he met with the Lamoureuxs for sushi one night.
Towne gave them mountain climbing advice that translates to hockey teams.
No. 1: Making the Olympic team is like reaching the peak of the mountain. Yes, it feels great, and you feel like you've done it, but you're only halfway there and the most dangerous part is still ahead. So, you have to stay focused to complete the task at hand.
"Most accidents happen on the way down," Monique said. "Not on the way up."
No. 2: When things go wrong on the mountain, everyone is equally responsible for figuring it out. It doesn't matter how many times you've been there. There was an earthquake on Everest during Towne's first summit attempt in 2015 and he ended up being a rescuer, not a climber. In relating it to hockey, Towne said when things go wrong on the ice, everyone is responsible for pulling together and figuring it out, no matter how many Olympics they've been to.
"No job is above or below anybody," Jocelyne said. "Everyone can have an instrumental part. He was trying to downplay it to us, but he was saving lives his first time on Everest. He didn't show up to do that. But you adapt and adjust to whatever is put in front of you and you do whatever you can to help."
No. 3: Take one step at a time. Any misstep on Everest could be fatal. So, Towne had to focus intently on each and every step. He couldn't be worried about what was going to happen way down the line.
For the U.S. team, sure, it seems likely that it will meet Canada in the gold-medal game just like 1998, 2002, 2010 and 2014. But if that's all they're worried about, a misstep could happen before they get there, like in 2006 when the Americans were upset by former UND associate coach Peter Elander's Sweden squad in the semifinals.
"We know how good Finland is," Monique said of USA's first opponent at 1:40 a.m. Sunday morning. "We have to be ready to play, whether it's Finland, Russia or Canada. You can't look past teams, because there's great goaltending on all the teams and every team has really skilled players. We can't look too far ahead. If we stay in the present, I think we'll be successful."
Towne's messages were inspirational for the Lamoureuxs and they have taken them to Pyeongchang.
"It was awesome," Monique said. "What he's accomplished — he definitely downplayed it — is something only about 150 people in the world have done (complete the Seven Summits). That's way more rare than being an Olympian. To draw parallels from what he did, and learning all of the lessons you can, is pretty cool. When you have an opportunity to meet someone so rare, you take advantage of it and try to figure out what makes this person so successful and great at what they do and what parallels you can draw from it."
The Lamoureuxs and Marvin are also reaching rare heights by playing in a third Olympics.
Only three women's hockey players — Angela Ruggiero, Julie Chu and Jenny Potter — have played in more Olympic Games (four).
Monique already ranks in the top 10 all-time in U.S. points at the Olympics (13) — and Jocelyne (11) can get there with two points in Pyeongchang.
But the ultimate goal is to come home from this Olympic Games with a gold medal.
Marvin would be the first from Warroad to win Olympic gold since Dave Christian accomplished the feat with the Miracle on Ice team in 1980. The Lamoureux twins would be the first North Dakota natives ever to win gold for the U.S.
"It's almost like it's my first Olympics," Monique said. "Having so many first-timers on our team and seeing the excitement they have, it's really contagious. I think probably four years ago, it was more like, 'OK, we know what we're doing. Let's not get too excited.' This time around, especially for the six of us going into our third Olympic Games, we're trying to draw a lot of energy from that younger group, because they've been so successful on the U18 national team. They know how to win."