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U.S. prepares for round 2 with Canada

GRAND FORKS — Upon returning home from winning silver medals at the 2010 Winter Olympics, Grand Forks natives Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux received quite the welcome back.

They were recognized at a UND men’s game to a roaring ovation. They went on a tour of area schools. They were special guest passengers on the Air Force flying team’s Thunderbirds.

But as all the public attention was focused on what the twins did in Vancouver, behind the scenes, they already left the 2010 Games in the review mirror.

The Lamoureuxs went through their rigorous training schedule, looking for ways to improve and prepare for the next Olympic Games.

They achieved many things along the way — elevating the UND women’s program to new heights and winning two Women’s World titles — but one larger goal was always in the back of their minds.

They wanted to get back to that gold medal game and take another swing at Canada.

The waiting is finally over.

The one game that the Lamoureuxs, and many of their teammates, have wanted for four years has arrived as the U.S. takes on Canada for the Olympic gold medal at 11 a.m. today on NBC.

Like usual, this one is a tossup.

The teams have played eight times since October. The series is tied 4-4.

The last three games have been decided by one goal, including Canada’s 3-2 victory during pool play last week in Sochi.

The Americans have the best offensive team in the tournament, racking up 20 goals in four games, an average of five per game. They have a ton of speed to burn with players like Amanda Kessel and Kendall Coyne.

“Monique and I have average speed on a fast team,” Jocelyne said. “The (Brianna) Decker-Kessel-Coyne line has tons of speed. It’s hard to stop them if you can’t catch them. We have to utilize our speed. They try to slow us down in the neutral zone. We have to use the north-south game. That will really help us out.”

The Canadians, on the other hand, have the best defensive team in the tournament. They haven’t allowed an even-strength goal yet. In fact, since the 2002 semifinals, they’ve only allowed one even-strength goal at the Olympics — a 15-game span.

The last time the Americans scored an even-strength goal against Canada at the Olympics was 1998. That’s also the last time anybody beat Canada at the Olympics. Since then, the Canadians have won 19 straight, including gold medals in 2002, 2006 and 2010.

“They’re a hard team to play against,” Jocelyne said. “They have a few players that can really turn the game around. They are good at being physical and slowing us down. We have to take advantage of the extra space on the Olympic ice.”

Jesse Vetter is expected to start in goal. Canada will likely start Shannon Szabados, who shutout the Americans in the 2010 gold medal game, even though Charline Labaonte is the netminder who beat the U.S. earlier in the tournament.

“I’m 100 percent confident in our team,” veteran Kelli Stack told the Boston Globe. “We’ve come a long way since the beginning of the year. You wait four years, or, basically, your whole life for this moment.

“So, the veterans are trying to show the first-timers that losing in the gold medal game is the worst possible feeling you could have in the world as a women’s hockey player. We’re going to be ready to go into that game.”

Whatever happens, the Lamoureux twins will make history.

With a win, they will be the first North Dakotans ever to win an Olympic gold medal.

If they lose, they will still be the first North Dakotans ever to win two Olympic medals.

But it’s clear which side they want to be on.

“I remember losing in Vancouver like it was yesterday,” Jocelyne said. “It’s great and everything to have a medal. But when the history is us and Canada in the first-place games every time, it’s not too enjoyable. Any competitor is going to say the same thing.

“I hate to lose.”

Brad Elliott Schlossman

Schlossman is in his 13th year covering college hockey for the Herald. In 2016, he was named the top beat writer in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He has voted in the national college hockey poll since 2007 and has served as a member of the Hobey Baker and Patty Kazmaier Award committees.

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