Sioux in familiar territoryMario Lamoureux has been here before. During his freshman season, the UND men’s hockey team was three games below .500 on Thanksgiving weekend. The Sioux sat in second-to-last place in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings and the season appeared to be on the brink.
By: By Brad Schlossman, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
Mario Lamoureux has been here before.
During his freshman season, the UND men’s hockey team was three games below .500 on Thanksgiving weekend. The Sioux sat in second-to-last place in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings and the season appeared to be on the brink.
But that team turned a losing record on New Year’s Day into the program’s 14th league title and a No.2 seed in the NCAA tournament by March.
“I think we just came together as a group,” said Lamoureux, now a senior captain. “We knew we were going through a tough time. Everyone kept believing and guys bought into the team systems and team structure and guys accepted their roles. Maybe it wasn’t even said, but everyone made a commitment to themselves that we were going to do whatever it took to make the team win.
“Guys just did their part. They didn’t try to go to the moon and back. They just did their part and did it well. That’s what we needed from everyone. Everyone did what they did well, did it every single night and every single time they were on the ice. That’s what turned it around for us.”
Fast forward to the present and the situation is eerily similar.
The Sioux are again three games below .500 heading into Thanksgiving weekend and in second-to-last place in the WCHA standings. After Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Bemidji State, more concerns have been raised about this year’s team.
But Lamoureux says he has no doubt the Sioux have the potential to turn it around again.
“I don’t think the opinions of what outsiders think matters to anyone in our room,” Lamoureux said. “The only thing that truly matters is that the guys believe in each other. Not for a second do I think that our team doesn’t have the capability to be one of the best teams in the nation come March and April. Are we there now? No. But Istrongly believe we’re going to get there.
“That starts with being confident in yourself, confident in your teammates and believing in what we’re doing.”
Lamoureux said that the team, collectively, was upset with Sunday’s performance against the Beavers, believing that they can play harder and with more urgency. Lamoureux and coach Dave Hakstol were among the Sioux who took accountability for the loss.
“It was our own fault,” Lamoureux said. “We didn’t play to the level we know we’re capable of playing. You can’t put the blame anywhere else but ourselves. You have to be accountable for our effort and intensity through every single game and I don’t think we had that on Sunday.”
The Sioux currently rank 10th among 12 WCHA teams in scoring offense. With their top recruit sidelined for at least five more weeks and the team lacking proven scorers, the biggest question facing the team is if they have the offensive firepower to get it done.
Lamoureux says yes.
“We have a lot of skill on this team,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve utilized it to the best of our ability. I think sometimes when you have a lot of skill, it takes some refining — not trying to do the cute things and keeping things really simple.
“We know we’re not going to be a team like last year, where we average four or five goals a game. We’re going to have to win some closer games. But I absolutely think we have a team that can turn it around. It’s all about believing. There’s a lot of character in our room. I still believe that we have guys that are going to get the job done.”
Defenseman Ben Blood, who also was on the 2008-09 team that turned it around, says he thinks this team can do the same.
“(Back then), we hit rock bottom, where everyone was like, ‘We have to do whatever it takes to get out of this hole,’” Blood said. “Hopefully, that’s what’s showing up with our team this week. Hopefully, more guys are on board with doing whatever it takes to win, emptying the tank for 60 minutes against (Colorado College). That’s what we need to do. We have to play Fighting Sioux hockey for 60 minutes.
“It’s going to be hard, but we can do it.”
Schlossman is a sports writer at the Grand Forks Herald