GANGNEUNG, South Korea – Monique Lamoureux and her twin sister Jocelyne were sophomores at Shattuck-St. Mary’s prep school when they learned a valuable lesson. It didn’t come from an English class or a Chemistry lab. Rather, it came far from the snow-covered campus in Faribault, Minn., at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games.
As the sisters, who were already making a name for themselves in hockey circles, entered class on that February day, the U.S. Women’s Team was poised to punch its ticket to its third consecutive gold-medal game. But by the time class was dismissed, a classmate broke the news that the Americans were stunned by Sweden in a semifinal shootout.
Monique Lamoureux-Morando remembers the shocking upset in 2006
“The U.S. was the favorite but the bounces didn’t go their way and the Swedes got great goaltending by Kim Martin,” Lamoureux recalled. “I definitely don’t want to be on that side of the semifinals.”
It’s a reminder that this year’s team can’t look past its semifinal berth against Finland, a team the Americans know all too well, having beaten them, 3-1, to open the tournament.
Canada will face the Olympic Athletes of Russia in the other semifinal.
“The hardest game is always the next one, so we’re not looking past Finland for one second,” said Lamoureux, who has reunited with her sister on Team USA’s most productive line.
“After that game, then we’ll focus on the next one.”
It’s been the team mantra since touch down in South Korea two weeks ago. So while the rest of the world may already be looking toward a gold-medal rematch with Canada, the American women have been content to take it one day at a time.
That’s probably not a bad idea, especially when Noora Raty stands in the way. The Finnish goaltender is considered one of the pre-eminent netminders in the game, stopping 39 shots in the tournament opener to keep the Finns within striking distance until Dani Cameranesi’s empty-net goal with 13 seconds left.
With the three-time Olympic veteran between the pipes, the Finns are in every game. It’s just a matter of finding enough offensive support to stick close to an American team with the speed and skill to break the game open at any time.
“We’re approaching it the same way we’ve approached every game in the tournament, just sticking to our system and playing as a team,” said U.S. forward Amanda Kessel, who played with Raty at the University of Minnesota.
“Finland is a very good team, but we missed a ton of chances the first time we played them. It’s one of those things where we could have had five or six instead of one or two.”
So far in the tournament the U.S. has outshot each of its opponents by an almost 2-to-1 margin, including a 45-shot effort against Canada in a 2-1 loss to close out the preliminary round.
U.S. head coach Robb Stauber likes his team’s offensive approach of getting more shots on goal, but knows more of these pucks need to find the back of the net. That’s why he and associate head coach Brett Strot have devoted a large part of practice over the last several days to working on generating more chances from in close.
“Look at the opportunities we’ve had within a 15-foot radius of the net. I would say 80 percent of our scoring chances have come from that area,” Stauber said. “If anyone came and watched our last three or four practices we’re doing exactly what we think is going to happen in a game. It seems like a decent plan, now we have to execute it.”
Scoring goals has been somewhat of a challenge not only here but during the pre-Olympic tournament. One player in particular that Stauber would like to get untracked is star forward Hilary Knight, who has registered only one assist through the first three games. It’s definitely not for lack of effort, as she and her linemates Briana Decker and Kendall Coyne have generated plenty of Grade A scoring chances.
“We had a great level of opportunity and a good level of compete, relentlessness, a lot of effort all around and we just couldn’t put the puck in the net,” Knight said after the Canada game.
Things don’t get any easier against Finland, but if they stay focused on the task at hand, they can ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself.
“It’s something that we’re not taking lightly. We know that we have to show up tomorrow,” Lamoureux said.
“They don’t give out trophies just for showing up at tournaments.”
|Sun., Feb 11||Finland||Preliminary||W, 3-1||Kwandong Hockey Centre||NBCSN
|Tues., Feb 13||Olympic Athletes From Russia||Preliminary||W, 5-0||Kwandong Hockey Centre||NBCSN
|Thurs., Feb. 15||Canada||Preliminary||L, 1-2||Kwandong Hockey Centre||NBCSN
|Mon., Feb. 19||Finland||Semifinals||W, 5-0||Gangneung Hockey Centre||NBCSN
|Thurs., Feb. 22||Canada||Gold-Medal Game||W, 3-2 (SO)||Gangneung Hockey Centre||NBCSN