As the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs look to return into the National Championship picture, the newest member of their coaching staff provides a remarkable track record. Gina Kingsbury, a member of Canada’s gold medal winning effort at the 2006 Torino and 2010 Vancouver Winter Games joins Shannon Miller and Laura Schuler on the proud Bulldogs program.
One of only three athletes in the history of St. Lawrence University Athletics to earn an Olympic gold medal, Kingsbury made the transition to coaching four years ago. Having announced her retirement on the same day as Carla MacLeod, Becky Kellar and Colleen Sostorics, Kingsbury left behind a proud legacy serving on Canada’s blueline.
Just like MacLeod, another sterling defender, her transition into coaching has been a successful one. As a side note, MacLeod coached with Team Japan at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. Kingsbury’s coaching tenure at the Okanagan Hockey Academy has also had international impact. One of her prized students was defender Micah Hart, who helped Canada, earn the gold medal at the 2014 IIHF Under-18 Women’s Worlds.
Having also been part of the IIHF’s Ambassador and Mentorship Program (working with Team France), Kingsbury has evolved into a valued teacher of the game. With Okanagan, she has employed more than just skating and skill development in the instruction of her young players.
Sport psychology has proven to be another tool in Kingsbury’s methods. Having majored in psychology at St. Lawrence University, along with her international experience may prove to be the remedy to inspire and motivate an underachieving Bulldogs program in the last few seasons. Considering that it has been a frustration for head coach Miller, the hiring of Kingsbury represents a unique second chance for her.
Coincidentally, Shannon Miller attempted to recruit Kingsbury as a player more than a decade ago. Instead, Kingsbury would suit up for the St. Lawrence Skating Saints, losing against the Bulldogs in the inaugural NCAA Women’s Frozen Four, contested in 2001. Kingsbury would accumulate 152 points at the NCAA level and earn All-America honors for the Skating Saints.
With the next chapter of her coaching career bringing her to Duluth, Minnesota, Kingsbury follows in the footsteps of others that have competed in the Winter Games. Stacy Wilson, the first Winter Games captain in the history of the Canadian program and Manon Rheaume, the First Lady of Hockey, (who served as the Bulldogs goalie coach) were integral components during the infancy of the program.
Later years would see Miller welcome Caroline Ouellette (the first French Canadian captain in the history of the Canadian program) and Julie Chu, who graduated as the all-time leading scorer in NCAA history. Of note, Ouellette and Chu were part of the 2008 Frozen Four championship team. Laura Schuler, like Wilson and Rheaume, competed on the Canadian team at the 1998 Nagano Winter Games is currently the top assistant on Miller’s staff.
This autumn, the Bulldogs recruiting class includes four highly touted defenders. Catherine Daoust and Jessica Healey, who both suited up for Canada’s Under-18 Program, along with Lynn Astrup, a Minnesota Ms. Hockey semi-finalist from the Warroad Warriors, and Linnea Hedin, who competed for Sweden at the 2013 IIHF Women’s Worlds. This foursome should certainly benefit from Kingsbury’s insights and expertise.
While the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (the Bulldogs’ conference) has produced 13 out of 14 Frozen Four champions, the level of competition has only increased. Taking into account that Wisconsin (featuring Miracle on Ice member Mark Johnson), North Dakota (who has European coach Peter Elander) and Minnesota, who earned an undefeated season in 2012-13, it has evolved as the most talented conference in NCAA women’s hockey.
The arrival of Kingsbury may prove to be the key piece to the Bulldogs returning in the championship picture. Since winning their last Frozen Four title in 2010, the Bulldogs have accumulated a win-loss record of 72-54-14, with only one NCAA tournament appearance. For the Bulldogs, the hiring of Kingsbury makes a serious statement about their ambitions to build on past glories and create new ones.
Photo credit: Hockey Canada Images