HEADLINE: Coyne eager to cash in
SUBHEAD: Palos Heights hockey player preparing for Women’s World Championship
By Tim Cronin
The loss was a heartbreaker.
The American women’s hockey team led Canada 2-0 with four minutes remaining in the Olympic championship game last February in Sochi, Russia.
And the Americans lost. Canada scored twice late in the third period to tie the game, then in sudden-death overtime to collect a 3-2 victory and the gold medal.
To a lesser person the circumstances of such a defeat in the Olympics, one that mirrored an earlier loss, would have left scars. That wasn’t so with Kendall Coyne of Palos Heights. Yes, the loss hurt in the locker room, but the junior communications major knows there’s a world outside those confines.
“We were there for 25 days and there was a lot to it, but what you remember most is the finish, what you go there for, and the end result,” Coyne said from Northeastern University in Boston last week. “We didn’t come away with the color medal that we wanted. But coming back home and sharing the experience with everyone, we found they didn’t care if we won gold, silver, bronze or no medal.
“They were just so proud of our team and what we did. When we returned home, there was more a sense of reality of what we accomplished.”
For Coyne, the stunner in Sochi was déjà vu. She was also a key member of the U.S. squad that surrendered a two-goal lead and lost in overtime to Canada in the 2010 Women’s World Junior at Seven Bridges in Woodridge -- that coming after Coyne, who had tallied the gold medal-winning goal the previous two years, knocked in a score that was never counted even though everyone saw the puck enter and exit the net.
Coyne said she thought back to that “a little bit. When you’re in that much pain from losing a hockey game ... there’s obviously much worse things in life, but you sit back and remember when you were in that situation before.”
“Seven Bridges went through my mind,” she said, “but I was just really excited to return home because I knew I’d see the support everybody was giving my family and my team. It was bittersweet, but I think the best part was coming back home.
“There’s nothing like living out your dream. Looking back on things, I keep saying I can’t believe it’s been a year.”
Within a few days the focus was on the future. Already planning on a master’s degree, Coyne interned in the Blackhawks’ media department last spring while continuing to work out, and this winter the present and future have collided in playing for Northeastern. Twice this season Coyne’s been tabbed as the Hockey East Player of the Week, including the Feb. 16-22 stretch when she piled up six points in a pair of Huskies wins.
She might win that nod for last week as well. On Sunday Coyne’s hat trick -- the third goal being the game-winner -- led Northeastern to a 4-3 victory over New Hampshire in the deciding game of their first-round Hockey East playoff series. The Huskies play Boston University in Saturday’s second semifinal.
Coyne is the fourth-leading scorer in women’s college hockey with 31 goals and 54 points in 31 games. Those numbers and her tenacious two-way play -- she’s a plus-18 on a team that is 15-16-5 and has allowed three more goals than it has scored -- are why she’s one of 10 nominees for this season’s Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, the sport’s equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. She was also nominated two years ago.
“It’s a tremendous honor that wouldn’t be possible without great teammates, coaches and, most importantly, the support from my family along the way,” Coyne said of her most recent Kazmaier nomination.
That’s the present. The future is another run with the U.S. team, this time in the Women’s World Championship, which begins March 28 in Malmo, Sweden. Unless there’s a surprise once again it’ll be the U.S. and Canada going for the title.
“Right now I’m focusing on the Hockey East playoffs, but that’s always in the back of your mind,” Coyne said of the world championship. “Every day in practice you either run when you get off the ice or stay on the ice and do a little bit extra -- extra for your college team but also for the experience of what’s coming up in the next few weeks. [I] just focus on the little things day to day. That’s how I never lose sight of what’s at the other end of the tunnel.”
Training camp begins Match 19 on Long Island, but it’s not as if Coyne will see an all-new group in the locker room. There are plenty of holdovers from the 2014 squad, including goaltender Alex Rigsby and forwards Meghan Duggan and Alex Carpenter, who played key roles in Sochi.
Although it’s not the Olympics, Coyne said she is as enthused about this year in Malmo, even though there won’t be nearly as much attention paid to the quest.
“One-hundred percent [as enthused],” Coyne said. “But [if we had won] it would be a little bit sweeter. Now it’s just a little bit bitter.”
The taste may be sweeter than she could imagine come April 4 when the championship game is held.