FARIBAULT — Shattuck-St. Mary’s is holding an alumni hockey reunion over the next couple of days. You probably know it as the Sochi Olympics medal round.
The women of Team USA face Canada in the gold medal game Thursday at 11 a.m., and exactly 24 hours later, the American and Canadian men’s teams will meet on the same Sochi ice in a semifinal game. Halfway around the world, students at this small, historic private high school figure to cut class, tune out teachers or sneak glances at computer monitors and TV screens, hoping to follow the action.
“We’ll probably have some students late to their fifth-period class,” Shattuck girls’ hockey coach Gordie Stafford said with a laugh. “I think it’s understandable.”
That’s because each game will feature four Shattuck alum, the forerunners of today’s Sabres teams, playing at the highest level of their sport. Two-time Olympians Monique and Jocelyne Lamoureux, who helped the Sabres earn the first of their five national championships nearly a decade ago, have been joined on the U.S. women’s team by Amanda Kessel and Brianna Decker, former Shattuck students who went on to star in college.
The men’s semifinal will pit a pair of Shattuck alums on each team — Rangers center Derek Stepan and Wild forward Zach Parise playing for Team USA, and Penguins center Sidney Crosby and Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews teaming up for Canada.
The eight Olympians from one school make Shattuck one of the most prominent feeders of young hockey talent in the world, and its mix of male and female players is unprecedented. Jerseys and photos of each are displayed prominently in the school’s arenas, including 7-foot-tall shots of Crosby and Toews hoisting the Stanley Cup.
Olympians set example
“It’s a big deal here,” said Chase Phelps, a senior left winger from Eagan. “It’s pretty much a goal of every kid that goes to Shattuck to play in the Olympics and play for your country. … It’s pretty inspiring.”
Not to mention a little distracting. Both of Shattuck’s top teams are in the middle of successful seasons that should have them in contention for USA Hockey national titles; the school is not affiliated with the Minnesota State High School League.
Lest we forget, all players carry challenging loads of schoolwork. But “we’ve been waking up early to watch the games” during the Olympic tournament, said Tyler Rockwell, a defenseman from San Jose, Calif. “You just have to make room.”
Shattuck made room in a campus lunchroom for the girls in its hockey program, some 30 of them, to gather for last week’s first U.S.-Canada showdown. “We hooked a computer up to the TV and everyone was huddled around at 8 in the morning, after practice,” Stafford said. “We’ve got Canadians in school here, so there were some friendly jabs back and forth. I’m sure it’ll be even more intense” for the gold medal game.
The Shattuck Eight have had a major impact in Sochi, with Canada’s captain (and 2010 Olympic hero) Crosby — whose sister Taylor is a goaltender on Shattuck’s girls team — collecting a pair of assists in the tournament so far, same as his teammate Toews. Parise scored a goal in Wednesday’s quarterfinal victory against the Czech Republic, too. And the four U.S. women have combined for six goals and 11 assists, powering the U.S. into the gold medal game.
That sort of Olympic success is a great advertisement for the boarding school of 453 students, who enroll students from 31 countries and 39 states, and a terrific motivator for the current players. “I see those Shattuck guys, you know they got there with hard work and a positive attitude, by grinding away every day,’’ Phelps said. “That’s what they teach us here.”
“We’re doing exactly what they did,” agreed Patti Marshall, a female defenseman from Thief River Falls, Minn. “Seeing how hard they work every day, it makes me want to work like them.”
It’s also rewarding for the staff, most of whom have been at the school for more than a decade. “My favorite thing is just seeing how they’ve grown up. We see these kids when they’re 15, and they’re just boys,” said longtime boys coach Tom Ward. “Now they have families, they have responsibilities, and they’re good people. Everybody here has a little chunk of helping them be what they’ve become, and it makes you really proud.”
Not to mention, a little nervous.
“I get anxious when I watch them play, like a parent watching his own kids,” Ward said. “But to see these players at the pinnacle, there really isn’t anything better.”