Ask North Dakota head coach Brian Idalski about his team’s series this weekend against No. 10 Minnesota Duluth, and the bench boss of the No. 5 team in the country shows respect for his opponent, but is confident that his players are battle-tested and ready for whatever the Bulldogs might throw at them.
“Just another top 10 team on the schedule,” Idalski said with a laugh. “We’ve played so many games in the first half against quality opponents that we focus most on our preparation and what we’re doing. It’s just another big series.”
Still, as sophomore forward Madison Kolls notes, the Sioux have never swept UMD since the program began varsity play in 2002, and a sweep of one of the sport’s premier programs would be a notable milestone in North Dakota’s evolution into a top national contender.
“We’ve never swept Duluth in our history,” Kolls said, “so it would be nice to get a sweep.”
Her teammate, Monique Lamoureux-Kolls, is cautious about not putting too much emphasis on the sweep, saying, “There’s a lot of things we want to do. We want a sweep, but we can’t lump it all into one weekend and hope we win both games. There’s a lot of intangibles that go into that, like taking the momentum into the second day if we win and taking care of the little things. I think we’re in trouble if we look too much at the big picture and don’t take care of the little details.”
Still, the opportunity to make program history is a big part of what Monique and her twin sister Jocelyne wanted when they opted to leave the Minnesota after their freshman season and return to North Dakota, where they made their debut last season after playing in the 2010 Winter Olympics with Team USA.
“At Minnesota, you’re expected to win a lot of those games,” Jocelyne said of the Duluth series and other matchups with top opponents. “Here, I don’t think we have that respect from the other teams in the league quite yet, and that’s a part of building a program: coming into weekends like this and expecting to win, and knowing that you need to get points out of the weekend.”
“We wanted to come back home and help build a program,” Monique said, “help make it one of the top programs in the country. I didn’t really expect the success that we had last year, but it’s definitely a work in progress, and this year we’re really showing our depth. Sometimes, it kind of lacks, but the freshmen have a lot of responsibility and big expectations, and I think they’re really coming into their own now, and they’re starting to get what college hockey is about.”
For Idalski, those freshmen could hardly have a better example to learn from than the Lamoureux sisters. As Grand Forks natives and daughters of former NCAA championship goaltender Pierre Lamoureux, Monique and Jocelyne grew up watching the North Dakota at Ralph Engelstad Arena, then saw older brother Jean-Philippe follow in their father’s footsteps, backstopping the team to Frozen Four appearances in 2007 and 2008. With brother Mario currently in his senior season with the Sioux men’s team and brother Pierre-Paul working with the team as an assistant video coordinator, Sioux hockey is truly a family affair for the Lamoureux clan.
Said Idalski “There’s no doubt that growing up having your father compete for this institution and win championships, having your brothers compete and win championships and be successful here as players, there’s no doubt that that makes it a lot easier for them to talk about the history, talk about why this program is so successful, and try to emulate things that the men have done, because they’ve had such great success over decades and time. It’s very easy for Jocelyne and Monique to relay what Sioux hockey is about, character-wise, and what it means to compete, the pride in the uniform and all of that. They do a great job of that, and they’re very passionate about what it means to play here.”
Still, when the time came for Jocelyne and Monique to make their college choice, the North Dakota program was in a state of uncertainty. In their first three seasons as WCHA members, the Sioux went 9-23-3, 7-27-2 and 3-31-2. Idalski took over when the Lamoureux twins were seniors at Shattuck St-Mary’s, but by that point, they were on their way to the University of Minnesota. In their freshman year in the Twin Cities, Monique and Jocelyne ranked first and second nationally in freshman scoring while leading the Gophers to a WCHA title and Frozen Four appearance. That spring, however, with Idalski making strides in Grand Forks, the twins felt the strong call of home, and they announced their intention to transfer, joining their hometown team last fall following a silver-medal performance with the U.S. National Team at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Upon returning to the collegiate game last year, the twins picked up right where they left off, with both finishing among the top 10 nationally in scoring average and leading the Sioux to a fourth-place finish in the WCHA and the best season in program history at 20-13-3. The team barely missed out on the last NCAA tournament berth, but the Sioux have come back strong. The Sioux head into the weekend at 11-6-1 on the year, with Jocelyne and Monique ranking second and 11th in the nation, respectively, in points per game. Monique has helped to shore up the UND blueline of late while Jocelyne remains a forward, but whenever they’re on the ice together, one doesn’t need names on the back of their jerseys to tell that they’re sisters.
“On the ice, they have this knack of just finding each other,” Kolls said. “It’s almost like they have telepathy out there. Most definitely, you can tell they’re sisters, regardless if there’s names on the back of their jerseys.”
Kolls, meanwhile, has been scoreless in two appearances for UND this year after four assists in 36 games as a freshman, but she can claim credit for a very important assist. Monique met her husband, Kolls’ brother Taylor, when he came to watch Madison play in a national tournament for Shattuck-St. Mary’s.
“I was on the younger team and she was on the older team,” Kolls said. “We both had nationals, and we were staying in the same hotel. Monique was the same age as my brother, and my brother came to the nationals, and so they just kind of met each other in the hotel on their own, and so they just connected from there. I claim a little of the credit, because after nationals, I was aware that my brother and Monique had interest in each other, and when prom came around at Shattuck, I kind of urged Monique to ask my brother to prom, and they went to prom together.”
The rest is history, as Monique and Taylor were married in July 2010 at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Of course, if Monique, Jocelyne and their teammates have anything to say about it, it won’t be their last major celebration at the Ralph.