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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum News Service , Published December 19 2013

Lamoureux sisters back in Grand Forks for Team USA

GRAND FORKS – Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux skated off the ice Thursday morning and walked down the Ralph Engelstad Arena tunnel.

This time, they turned left.

“It’s a little weird being in the visiting locker room,” Monique admitted.

Then again, nothing is normal about their current journey.

The Grand Forks natives are back in town, but it’s not just to visit family and friends. This time, they are preparing for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, which are less than 50 days away in Sochi, Russia.

Their American team will play an exhibition game at 7 tonight against Team Canada in a rematch of the 2010 Winter Olympics gold-medal game.

“It’s just awesome being back and getting to play one more game here,” Monique said. “It’s been a crazy couple of months. It has gone by really fast. We’re working toward peaking. We take these games very seriously.”

Technically, tonight’s game is an exhibition. But it is a high-stakes event for both teams.

The Americans still have to cut two more players before going to Sochi. Their final roster will be determined in 12 days, with final spots announced at the NHL Winter Classic on Jan. 1.

Canada has three cuts to make before going to Sochi.

“It’s big pressure. It’s a great crowd,” Team USA coach Katey Stone said. “The environment will be energized, and let’s face it, a bit stressful, too. At the end of the day, these are young women that are trying to make, hopefully, one of the best-ever teams in the world. So, there’s a lot on the line.

“If they can handle that, they can handle anything. So, these are great tests.”

This is the fifth pre-Olympic game between the two squads. Canada holds a 3-1 edge in the previous four meetings, but the Americans hammered Canada 5-1 in the last game, which came a day after the Canadians’ head coach stepped down.

New head coach Kevin Dineen will lead the Canadian team tonight.

The U.S. and Canada also will play Dec. 28 in St. Paul and Dec. 30 in Toronto.

“It’s good for us. It’s good for them. And it’s certainly good for the game of women’s ice hockey to expose everyone to the high level of hockey and athleticism,” Stone said. “We love it and the kids love it. They get fired up for it.”

For the Lamoureux twins, the game will have a bit deeper meaning.

They know this could be the final time they play in Ralph Engelstad Arena, where they starred for three years on the UND squad, helping turn the program from an also-ran to a national power.

“Jocelyne and I have had this game marked on our calendar for a while now,” said Monique, who will be recognized along with her sister before the game.

And in the end, they hope this game is another strong step toward Sochi, where the Americans hope to win gold.

“We’re really looking forward to it,” Stone said. “For a handful of us, it’s the first time we’ve visited Grand Forks and been in this spectacular arena. So, it’s a pretty great event. We’re looking forward to a fantastic crowd.”

Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald