One year later, Coyne evolves into dependable role for RiverKings

SOUTHAVEN, Miss - One year ago, defenseman Richard Coyne laced up the skates and donned the blue and gold for the Saints of the College of St. Scholastica for one final time against Adrian College in the NCHA (North Collegiate Hockey Association) playoffs. Coming on the short end of a 4-2 contest in the best of three series, Coyne felt that work was still on the table for him.

“With the college season ending, I was on the phone with my advisor seeking what would be the best move for me,” Coyne recalled. “My coach called me into his office and asked me if I wanted to continue to play and I said, ‘yeah absolutely.’ He gave me phone numbers to the RiverKings and to Columbus.”

For whichever team that contained interest, he hoped they would see a tough nosed, hard working player that could develop on the ice. In seeking the right fit, Coyne contacted both to see what each opportunity offered.

As for the defenseman with 61 games under his belt in his collegiate career and aspirations to play professionally, he pondered that one chance of a lifetime. Eventually, Coyne was sold on the RiverKings.

“I came to a decision with ‘Mess’ (RiverKings’ Head Coach Derek Landmesser) in a couple days. He told me he liked my game and said ‘we know you’re a big guy, you work hard, and we need something like that for our team.’” Coyne reflected. “That’s my game every night. I told him I was coming and I was here two days later.”

When Coyne began his transition from college to pros, He remained student at St. Scholastica, which meant he had to hit the books while playing for the RiverKings.

“I was proactive about it while making my second semester schedule. I had one class on campus, which the teacher was willing to work with me knowing that I would leave, and other classes online,” Coyne mentioned. “When I came in, I still had homework to do, but I could still do it while I was here. I still graduated on time.”

Sure, guys like Coyne out of college still focus on schoolwork, yet another challenge lies on the ice. Last year, 39 players signed out of college and joined the SPHL. Now, only 17 players who signed a contract with a team last year remain in the league or play in the ECHL.

“One of the challenges was learning more about the system and how things go. Also, learning how to simplify my game is an experience that I never got,” Coyne replied. “The hardest part of the transition was the speed part of the game. It was big jump from college to this (SPHL) but I think I have done well with it.”

Now that Coyne is fully acclimated with the environment and team, he has spotted thorough progression in his game since his collegiate playing days in Minnesota.

“I received opportunities that I never have had before here. Just seeing my game progress to what it is now has been fulfilling even though my stats don’t show it,” Coyne stated. “I can notice how I’m progressing. I’m becoming a little more offensive in my game. Like I said, stats don’t show up but I mean, last season I had maybe 12 shots on net in college. This year I might have close to 60.”

As a 6-foot-1, 215-pound defenseman, Coyne has found his way into the highlights this season with punishing hits on opponents carrying the puck into the defensive zone. But even the jitter bugs could not escape him as he watched the first RiverKings game on the bench against the Peoria Riverman.

“I was really excited after coming in and watching the first game,” Coyne mentioned. “After seeing that, I was really nervous and excited. But, once I stepped out on to the ice with the guys, everything fell into place.”

Last season, the RiverKings added Coyne and forward Dillan Fox for the playoff push. The RiverKings have already seen two college players join the lineup with the potential for more to follow. One of those newcomers is a former St. Scholastica teammate in Derek Sutliffe, who recently signed a full contract with the team after a three-game tryout. One year after being in their situation, Coyne finds himself taking the newest RiverKings under his wing.

Coyne’s advice to them? “Just have fun. Keep working hard. You never know what’s going to happen. Just stick to your game and don’t try something that you can’t do. The more that you keep to your role the better off you will be.”

As for being in their shoes once before, Coyne knows how to fit in into the team chemistry.

“The coach will call you in tell you what’s expected of you. And that’s what you base your game off of,” Coyne explained. “The coach does his research on you and just tells you to do your thing. Just play your game. If you do that, the better off guys will be.”

The RiverKings recently sparked a four-game win streak and clinched a playoff spot. For Coyne and the rest of the squad, they are peaking at the right time right before the post-season. The keys to keeping it up?

“We just need to play like we are. Keep it simple and don’t try to be fancy,” Coyne said. “If we keep getting pucks to the net and crashing, we are fitting right into our identity there as RiverKings.”

Defenseman Richard Coyne has played in 44 games while amassing 5 assists in his first full season with the RiverKings. - ©Kori LaVire

The RiverKings take on the Pensacola Ice Flyers for Military Night on March 25 this Saturday where the team will wear special camouflage jerseys. For tickets and details, visit RiverKings.com or call 662-342-1755 

About the Mississippi RiverKings
The RiverKings are supported by our community partners, season ticket holders, fans, and grants from Maddox Foundation, an independent private foundation based in Hernando, Miss. To find out more about the RiverKings, call 662-342-1755 or visit RiverKings.com.

Posted by Mississippi RiverKings at 9:42 AM

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PEO y-Peoria 56 38 13 5 81
MAC x-Macon 56 33 16 7 73
PEN x-Pensacola 56 33 16 7 73
HUN x-Huntsville 56 30 16 10 70
KNX x-Knoxville 56 30 20 6 66
EVV x-Evansville 56 27 20 9 63
MRK x-RiverKings 56 29 25 2 60
RKE x-Roanoke 56 26 26 4 56
BIR Birmingham 56 22 28 6 50
FAY Fayetteville 56 12 38 6 30
Full Standings

Updated: April 8, 2018

x-Clinched Playoff Berth
y-Clinched Regular Season Title