Double Vision

When teams face off this season against the University of Minnesota women, you can forgive them if they think they’re seeing double (and need their eyes examined) because they are.

“Double” in this case refers to identical twin sisters Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux, who are a major reason why the Gophers are in the thick of the race for the WCHA title.

Through their first 28 games, the Lamoureux sisters were among the national leaders in various offensive categories.

Monique, for example, was tied for the lead in goals (31), was third in assists (26) and was first in total points (57).

Jocelyne was second in assists (29) and third in points (47).

“I think the long-term goal for us and many of the top players in the country is to be on the Olympic team,” said Jocelyne Lamoureux. “But I don’t think I envisioned us being as productive as we’ve been.

“Coming to a new program, there were certain expectations we had for ourselves. By working hard every day, we know what we’re capable of. If we get the bounces and are fortunate enough to produce, that’s fine. But nobody expects you to be as productive as we’ve been stepping into a new place.

“After all,” continued Jocelyne Lamoureux, “it is a big step from high school hockey (Shattuck-St. Mary’s in this case) to college hockey. You just have to do your best to prepare yourself during the summer of your senior year to make the transition.”

Besides the obvious physical resemblance, the Lamoureuxs also have another unique distinction: they were the youngest players — at age 17 — on the U.S. Four Nations Cup Team in 2006 (which, in retrospect, was a precursor to their being named to the 2008 United States U-22 Team).

“I think it enabled us to get our feet wet in terms of international competition,” said Jocelyne Lamoureux. “It was an experience thing and, obviously, it was a great experience.”

Their tender age notwithstanding, neither sister was awestruck by the experience of playing with and against the top female players in the world.

“You respect the players who have been there before and have established themselves,” said Jocelyne Lamoureux quite matter-of-factly. “But once you step on the ice, you’re there to contribute as much as any other player.

“Against Canada, for example, you’re not in awe. You just want to try and compete.”

Arguably, ever since they could walk, Jocelyne and Monique and their four older brothers were competing in sports — often against each other.

“We’re very competitive with each other but it’s a good competitiveness,” said Monique Lamoureux. “Playing a bunch of different sports we always tried to out-do each other. If one did better, we didn’t hold it against the other. If one knocks the other, we start laughing.

“We’re still competitive but it’s always a positive thing. We’re always pushing each other to get better.”

As might be expected with two sisters at the bottom rung of the age ladder in a family with four boys (each of whom played hockey), the girls weren’t always treated with TLC (that is, tender loving care).

“One summer the six of us were playing street hockey and I remember one of my brothers slashed me and I slashed him back,” recalled Jocelyne Lamoureux. “We were in the second or third grade and he tried to scare me and whacked me pretty hard on the back.

“I ran into the house crying and went to my mom (Linda). She said if you play with the boys you might get hit — or you’re not going to play. But our parents never pushed us (into playing sports) and that’s part of the reason why we’re at where we are today. We were playing for fun but we had to try hard.

“Our dad (Jean-Pierre, who was a goalie at North Dakota and helped lead the Fighting Sioux to two national championships) coached our house team when we were really little,” continued Jocelyne Lamoureux. “If anything, he was harder on us then he was on the boys because he wanted to make sure it didn’t seem like he wasn’t favoring us.”

Besides possessing natural athletic ability, the Lamoureux sisters also possess a sense of humor.

“One time at Shattuck we were playing a team and were ahead by quite a bit and everyone thought it would be funny if we switched jerseys,” recalled Monique Lamoureux. “At the time, I was playing forward and Jocelyne was playing defense. We had to switch socks and helmets and neither of our coaches figured it out.”

There’s no truth to the rumor that once coach Gordon Stafford and his staff learned they were, oh, tricked, they made the Lamoureux girls skate from goal line to goal line until they were gasping for breath.

In a more serious vein, their ability to communicate with each other on the ice is virtually uncanny.

“Obviously, growing up together and playing on every team together, the communication factor was such that we didn’t have to say much to know where we were,” said Monique Lamoureux. “We don’t necessarily look to make the pass and we know how to read off each other more so than anybody else.

“It’s more of a familiarity thing. We know how each other plays so well that, if you put us in a certain situation, we know where the other is going to be and what she’s going to do. Really, it’s about predictability.”

What might not have been predicable early on was where the Lamoureuxs would play their college hockey.

Father Jean-Pierre, as mentioned, was a star goalie at North Dakota.

Jean-Phillipe also is a goalie and backstopped the Fighting Sioux to the 2008 Frozen Four.

Mario is a freshman forward this season at North Dakota.

And, of course, the Lamoureux girls played for Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson on the Four Nations Cup Team. Johnson, who played on the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” team, has long been one of the nation’s very best women’s coaches and recently was named the head coach of the 2010 U.S. Olympic Women’s Team.

“It was a real hard decision for us to make,” admitted Monique Lamoureux. “In the end, we chose between Wisconsin and Minnesota because North Dakota was in the middle of a coaching change.

“We came to Minnesota to watch them play Wisconsin. We looked at each other and smiled. We felt the whole program (at Minnesota) was a good fit for us. By coming to Minnesota, we felt we could become the best players we were capable of being.”

Given what they’ve accomplished so far, who’s to argue?

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