For Kendall Coyne, playing for the U.S. Olympic hockey team this past February in Sochi, Russia, was the experience of a lifetime.
Coyne took a year off from playing for Northeastern University in 2013-14 to help Team USA win a silver medal, and the 5-foot-2 forward tied for the team lead in points at Sochi with two goals and four assists.
Now back for her junior season in Boston, Coyne says the Olympic hockey education she received was invaluable, particularly in terms of leadership.
This season, for instance, the Northeastern roster includes nine freshmen, so Coyne’s role on the team is not just to score and make plays but also to help show the way for younger players.
“It’s definitely more of a leadership role,” she said. “I think that’s the best part about coming off last year. When you can look at [Olympic team] leaders like Meghan Duggan and Julie Chu and Jessie Vetter, I get to use what I learned from them.”
Being a leader doesn’t necessarily mean being a vocal, rah-rah type.
“They all lead by example,” Coyne said. “They’re just amazing, natural-born leaders, and I think that’s something that I took away. A lot of it comes natural, and just being a good example on and off the ice. Just making good decisions that are going to affect your team positively and not negatively every day is very important.”
With a young group, Northeastern got off to a rough start this season. The team won just one of its first five games and has a 2-5-3 record.
Coyne, who leads the team in points with 11 — scoring five goals with six assists in eight games — is certain things will turn around.
“I think once we get everyone on board, and those [new] players get comfortable with Hockey East and the college atmosphere, I think things will start going our way,” she said.
Coyne’s presence certainly should be a help this season. She’s one of the fastest skaters in college hockey, which allows her to get into position to make plays on both the offensive and defensive ends. Plus, she has a wealth of experience from her first two seasons at Northeastern and on U.S. national teams.
In her sophomore season at Northeastern, she was a top-10 finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award (given to the nation’s top player) after compiling 68 points (37 goals, 31 assists) in just 34 games.
Aside from playing in the Winter Games earlier this year, Coyne has been a member of two U.S. world championship teams (2011 and 2013) and four Four Nations Cup teams before this season. In 2012, she scored the game-winning goal in a victory over Canada that clinched the Four Nations Cup championship.
The experience playing internationally and with the best U.S. players has been invaluable, Coyne said. Particularly enlightening for Coyne was playing on the same line with former University of Wisconsin star and Patty Kazmaier Award winner Brianna Decker on Team USA.
“She’s arguably one of the best players in the world, and just having the opportunity to play with her, she makes players around her better,” Coyne said. “I think having that opportunity is pretty special.”
Coyne has been enjoying a mini-Olympic reunion this past week at the Four Nations Cup in Kamloops, B.C. Coyne was selected for the U.S. team, along with 11 other veterans of the Olympic team. Coyne had an assist in the championship game but Team USA fell 3-2 to Canada.
To play in the tournament, Coyne had to leave her college team for a week and a half and fill her breaks in Kamloops with schoolwork. But the Palos Heights, Ill., native said she was grateful for the opportunity.
“It’s been awesome,” she said. “After living and being with them [her Olympic teammates] … just being back with everybody, it’s very special.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.