March 4, 2014

Disappointing finish doesn't mar Coyne's Olympics

By Joshua Kummins

Kendall Coyne chases the puck during a preliminary round game against Finland at the Olympics. Coyne and the American women came up short in their quest for gold, but she said the Sochi experience was one to remember. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

BOSTON – The end result of this year’s Winter Olympics was devastating for the United States women, but Kendall Coyne knows how valuable the experience was as she returns to Boston to prepare for a third season with the Northeastern Huskies.

Coyne returned to her adopted home on Huntington Avenue this past weekend and was honored as part of a ceremony during the Huskies’ men’s hockey game on Saturday.

In addition to Coyne, the school honored Steve Langton, a track and field alum from Melrose, Mass., who became the first Husky to win multiple medals at one Olympics as a member of the U.S. bobsled team, taking bronze in the two- and four-man events.

“The whole Northeastern community has been behind us the whole way even when we started this journey almost a year ago,” Coyne said during a media briefing following the ceremony at Matthews Arena. “It’s pretty special to come back and see the support throughout the entire community.”

The Palos Heights, Ill., native, who has already etched her name into the Husky record books after just two seasons, led the U.S. women in scoring with two goals and four assists in five contests.

Although the result of a 2-1 overtime loss to archrival Canada in the Feb. 20 gold medal game was a tough pill to swallow, thriving against the world’s best competition will be vital as she returns to collegiate hockey and helping NU on its march towards the top, Coyne said.

“It’s definitely a team sport and we all put on the jersey,” Coyne said. “My personal success is not as important, but I thought we played well throughout the tournament and it was a pretty special moment.”

“Just training with the 20 best players in the country, day in and day out, definitely prepares you for that moment. Being at the Olympic Games was definitely the biggest eye-opening moment.”

After posting 45 points as a freshman at Northeastern, Coyne became the first Husky woman since 1989 to eclipse the 60-point mark in a season with 37 goals and 31 assists in 34 games as a sophomore. En route to leading the Huskies to the Hockey East title game last season, she recorded multiple points in 12 of the last 16 games.

Behind much of Coyne’s success during those first two seasons was close friend and NU alum Florence Schelling, who was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player for her performance in leading Switzerland to the bronze – its first women’s hockey medal.

Coyne was behind her two-year teammate all the way, of course except during their head-to-head contest in pool play.

“She’s so confident,” Coyne said of the three-time Olympic veteran. “That’s the way she played. Being the MVP, she was a star. ... I’m so happy for her.”

The experience, however, featured more than just hockey. Leading up to the Olympics, Coyne stayed with a host family in Concord, Mass., practiced at numerous Greater Boston rinks, including the Edge Sports Center in Bedford, and trained with Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning.

In retrospect, she said, the most memorable moments were attending other competitions throughout her time in Sochi, including one featuring her fellow American Husky.

“The coolest part of the opportunity was just to meet the other athletes and just support other athletes in the U.S. delegation,” said Coyne, a communications major. “It was pretty cool to see Steve (Langton) win two medals and to be there for one of the (bobsled) races was so cool.”

Despite her absence, the Huskies have made a solid playoff push this year. Coyne has been watching and will be as they head to Hyannis, Mass., this weekend for their third Hockey East Tournament appearance in four seasons.

“I’ve been watching pretty closely, obviously from a distance,” she said. “I don’t think I need to give (the current team) any advice. They’re doing well and I’m so proud of them.”

Twitter: @JoshuaKummins