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Kaz Watch: Coyne Leads Northeastern to New Heights

03/15/2016, 9:00am MDT
By Doug Williams - Special to USAHockey.com

The Huskies reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 2016

An award of The USA Hockey Foundation, the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award is presented annually to the top player in NCAA Division I women’s ice hockey.

Kendall Coyne’s list of accomplishments at Northeastern University is as long as her hockey stick.

She ranks as the all-time leading scorer in Northeastern and Hockey East history, set a school single-season record for points this season and was selected as the Hockey East Player of the Year earlier this month. She’s also the first Northeastern player to be selected as a Hockey East first-team all-star for four consecutive seasons.

But Coyne ranks her greatest achievement as being part of this season’s team that reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time. The Huskies’ 28 victories also set a school single-season record.

Coyne, a forward from Palos Heights, Illinois, said her quest as a senior was to help the Huskies reach new heights.

“We were trying to accomplish something that’s never been done before, and that was to make it to the NCAA Tournament,” said Coyne last week, before Northeastern’s NCAA quarterfinal matchup with Boston College. “So that was pretty incredible last week, experiencing that with my teammates. For me, I was thinking back to my freshman year, my sophomore year, when times were tough. It’s exciting to see how much the program has grown. That’s been the biggest thing for me, to see the growth of the program since I came in in 2011.”

Northeastern’s tournament run was brief, as the Huskies fell to unbeaten and top-seeded Boston College 5-1 Saturday. Coyne’s third-period goal — her 50th of the season — was her team’s only score.

Yet it was a milestone season for Northeastern to reach the tournament after so many seasons of disappointment. In some seasons since Coyne arrived, the Huskies piled up wins (22 in 2011-12, 23 in 2012-13) but fell just short of a tournament berth. In others, such as in her junior year, Northeastern was just 14-17-5.

This season, led by Coyne, the Huskies were 28-9-1 and had the largest season-to-season turnaround in their history, improving by 14 wins.

“It’s gratifying to be part of what has obviously been the best team Northeastern has seen,” she said.

Coyne, a team captain, said she felt driven this season to do whatever she could to help her team get into the tournament in her final opportunity.

“I’ve been so blessed to have a great career here at Northeastern. … You want to go out in the best possible way and show everyone your appreciation for how much they’ve given you,” she said. “I think it was just trying to be better every day.”

Coyne, who was leading the nation in scoring entering Saturday’s tournament game, finished 2015-16 with 84 points. She’s just one behind B.C.’s Alex Carpenter in two fewer games. Coyne also ends her season with a nation-leading 50 goals, five hat tricks and five short-handed goals. Her 2.27 points per game also is the best in NCAA Division I.

Coyne, one of three finalists for the annual Patty Kazmaier Award given to the best player in women’s college hockey, ends her four-year career at Northeastern (she took the 2013-14 season off to play for Team USA in the Olympic Winter Games) with 141 goals, 108 assists, 249 points and 1.87 points per game.

Though she’s ranked among the best players in college hockey since her freshman season, her final year was by far her best. Her previous best point total was 68, and her season high in goals had been 37.

She credits her coaches and teammates — and especially linemates Hayley Scamurra and Denisa Krizova — for much of her success, but also says it was her first season in college that she played with a 100-percent healthy left wrist.

She broke the wrist in 2010 as a high schooler playing for the U.S. Under-22 team and it’s been subpar ever since. After the final of three surgeries this past offseason, she felt whole again.

“It really gave me a lot of confidence going in [to this season] knowing I’m playing 100 percent, like I was in high school,” she said. “It’s overall strength in my arm, my wrist, my hand,” she said. “Just everything.”

Though this season ended in a loss and Coyne never had an opportunity to play in the Frozen Four, she said she relished being a part of a breakthrough season. She’ll always remember the excitement of finally going to the tournament.

“It definitely was pretty cool to see,” she said of the buzz on campus surrounding the Huskies’ success. “I think it will be more realistic when we see a banner up there that says ‘NCAA Tournament 2016.’ That will be pretty special.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

Photo by Jim Pierce/Northeastern Athletics

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