Jacques Lamoureux had been waiting for this game for two years.
He’d seen Michigan before, of course. As a freshman at Northern Michigan, Lamoureux was on the ice for two games at Yost Arena in January 2007, helping the Wildcats earn a split against the Wolverines.
However, it was after his season in Marquette was over, and he was watching Air Force take on Minnesota in the NCAA Tournament, that he realized that NMU wasn’t where he was meant to be.
A week later, in a story that’s been told and retold as the Grand Forks, N.D. native has established himself as the nation’s top goal-scorer, Lamoureux called head coach Frank Serratore and asked if he could reapply to the Academy, one year after the Department of Defense’s Medical Examination Review Board had denied him admission because of his history of depression.
By now, of course, we know the rest of the story; while Serratore was skeptical of the chances, Lamoureux was admitted on his second application, watched another NCAA near-miss last year against Miami while sitting out under transfer rules, and was Atlantic Hockey Player of the Year this season in his first campaign as a Falcon, leading up to Friday, when he and his Air Force teammates met Michigan in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
It’s safe to say that what took place at the Arena at Harbor Yard was worth the wait, as Lamoureux delivered an insurance goal in the Falcons’ 2-0 win over Michigan, the first NCAA Tournament in program history.
Still, the Hobey Baker finalist isn’t ready to reflect just yet.
“You set lofty goals because you want to work towards something,” Lamoureux said. “We knew we could win the league and win the conference playoffs, and get here and we could make a statement and win some games. We came here on Tuesday, and our goal is to win two hockey games. I’m pretty happy, but business isn’t over yet.”
Lamoureux learned that mentality the same way he learned to play hockey in the first place: from his father, Pierre, who was part of two national championship teams at the University of North Dakota.
“At the start of the year,” Lamoureux said, “I was talking to my dad, and I was saying we have the makings to make the NCAA Tournament. The kind of guy he is, he said, ‘Just worry about day one and the first day of practice and things like that,’ so he kind of took my head out of the clouds a bit.”
Lamoureux’s “stay humble, stay hungry” mentality was particularly evident when the subject of his goal came up in the post-game press conference. Asked about the goal that gave him a nation-leading 33 for the season, and could legitimize that number for observers who questioned his competition, Lamoureux chose to talk about Matt Fairchild, who assisted on the tally.
“You look at Matty Fairchild, he’s got world-class speed,” Lamoureux said. “You talk about Michigan’s speed, he might be the fastest guy on the ice. He just made a great play getting the puck out of the zone, he beat that one defenseman at their blue line, got their guy to commit to him, he just slid it over and all I had to do was put it in the net. That’s all his work and I was just kind of the beneficiary of it.”
Serratore, on the other hand, was more than happy to sing the praises of his star forward, who gave the Hobey Baker voters one more thing to think about.
“He scored a big goal here tonight,” Serratore said, “and actually could have had another one. If you can score against the Michigan Wolverines in the NCAA Tournament, I think that should legitimize him in a lot of people’s eyes. He possesses a great gift, and that gift is his ability to score goals.”
It’s been a long wait, but Lamoureux finally got to put those gifts to use in the NCAA tournament, helping the Falcons break through for the biggest win in program history.
Don’t ask him to look back on his achievement just yet however. After all, if you ask Jacques Lamoureux, he still has business to take care of.