THE EXPECTATIONS OF JAMIE KENYON
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
It was virtually impossible to miss Jamie Kenyon three ago weeks in UMD’s series against St. Cloud State. Paired with senior Jessica Wong and sophomore Jenna McParland, Kenyon seemed to literally appear in every scrum around the net. Never mind that on Saturday (Jan. 12), Kenyon, with two goals and plenty more near misses with eight shots, was experiencing flu-like symptoms after many of her shifts. Kenyon still skated and crashed the net like her life depended on it, and on Sunday, added two more goals on four shots. Some players just get sick. Jamie Kenyon gets sicks and scores WCHA Offensive Player of the Week honors.
The “A” on her jersey this season is no accident. While the product of Sparta, Wisc. may not be the most vocal player on the team, the junior forward is without question one of its heralded leaders, quietly going about her business in a way that makes what she does matter to the team.
“First, I am honored to be able to be an assistant captain and it’s great to know that the coaches see me as a leader,” said Kenyon earlier in the week. “I would consider myself a leader, but one more by example. Growing up I was a captain on most of my hockey teams and also for my volleyball and soccer teams in high school. I think that it is really important for not only our captains but everyone at certain times to step up since we are so young. I think I’ve always been looked at for my hard work ethic and led in that way. But in the last year, I feel I’ve needed to step up a little vocally, become more outgoing and reach out to the girls in way I hadn’t before.”
Kenyon is effective without being flashy or attracting an immense amount of scrutiny. Perhaps it took the St. Cloud series to grab our attention, despite the fact that Kenyon had recorded seven points -- five of them goals -- in her last six skates after the series with the Huskies. It may be no accident that in those six games, UMD was unbeaten and playing some of the best hockey so far this season. With all nine of her goals having come in all-important WCHA play, Kenyon leads the Bulldogs with goals in league play and is has turned in 15 points in WCHA action. Even more telling is Kenyon’s plus/minus rating, a +6 in WCHA games. Five times this season Kenyon has had multiple-point games, and UMD is 8-2 overall when she has gotten on the scoresheet.
If head coach Shannon Miller leaves Wong on Kenyon and McParland’s line, the sky may be the limit for a Bulldog squad that flexed defensive muscle all of the first half of the season but struggled to put goals on the board.
“That weekend was such fun,” said Kenyon. “Wong and McParland are both great players and I’m grateful to be able to get the chance to play with them. Wong and I always kind of knew we could find each other but it really showed this weekend and I think it kind of caught us off guard. It’s great to have McParland there as well. She can really finish and adds more of the scoring to our line. We were meshing well last week during practice, but I think it surprised all three of us how fast and how easily we can find each other.”
“Jamie is smart forward who listens, works hard and takes pride in doing the little things right,’ said Miller about Kenyon. “Jamie is an assistant captain, a selfless player and all round good teammate. Because of Jamie’s coachability, skills and work ethic she logs time on the PP and PK on top of playing her regular shifts. Jamie has played with many different people this season and happily adjusts to whatever the team needs. This past weekend was the first time Kenyon, Wong and McParland have ever played together on a line and they had great chemistry, each contributing in different ways and it paid off in a big team win. Coachability and work ethic are key favors to success, but so is chemistry.”
The almost unassuming Kenyon constantly credits the players around her, as she did when discussing the St. Cloud series. But the maturity of Kenyon is crystal clear when she speaks confidentally of what she expects of herself offensively on the ice.
“I think I have improved on being more consistent and being counted on as someone who will contribute,” said Kenyon. “I knew that I needed to be more accountable and focused on trying to be in the right spot at the right time and just go to the net hard and try to make things happen. I’m always hopeful that I’ll contribute to our offense but as long as we’re winning and playing well, it really doesn’t matter who is getting the job done.”
After missing 14 games last season as a sophomore due to injury, Kenyon -- who registered six goals and five assists for 11 points in just 22 games -- learned an immense amount about herself and the rest of the Bulldog team when she was forced to watch from the sideline.
“I learned a lot about myself and my team during those 14 games and it was really tough and was really hard on me only being able to watch my team and not be able to do anything,” said Kenyon. “When watching I was able to learn a lot about how our team played and things I needed to work on so when I came back, I was able to be better for the team. The first few weeks I didn’t play were really hard on me but my parents were really great and always there for me. They come to all of our games now and even when I was injured, they still came and watched almost all the games with me. Having them around really helped me out a lot.”
Kenyon’s parents made the drive from Sparta, Wisc., arguably closer to the University of Wisconsin than to UMD. Yet Kenyon knew that she was meant to be a Bulldog, falling in love with Duluth long before she ever came to town on an official visit.
“I get this question a lot because I’m from Wisconsin and as everyone knows there is a Wisconsin-Minnesota rivalry, but I love Duluth and when I visited, it just felt like home and where I should be,” said Kenyon. “It is also the winningest program in women’s hockey and to be able to play for a team that is that good with such a great coach close to home made it an easier decision. I have always loved the city of Duluth. My family goes on a fishing vacation every summer in Canada and we have always driven through Duluth. Even if I was going to take a nap, I would make my parents wake me up in Duluth so I wouldn’t miss driving through it.”
She chose UMD despite growing up watching her cousin Cyndy Kenyon play for the Badgers, one of two people Kenyon’s cites as her biggest hockey influences. The other, her older brother Chad encouraged her to play hockey and pushed her to get better.
“The history of winning at UMD is a reason I came here, not just because they win but because there is that high expectation of winning. I am very hard on myself and liked to be pushed and I feel that having that high expectation of winning and being the best you can has really helped me develop as a player and a person.”
That expectation of winning sealed the deal for Kenyon to become a Bulldog. Quietly confident, she has goals for both herself and the Bulldogs, and she isn’t afraid to speak candidly about them.
“I would say a big goal I have is becoming a memorable player,” said Kenyon. “I would like to leave UMD having made a good impression on the hockey program, the town and the university. I would also love to win an NCAA title. I watched UMD win in 2008 at the DECC and watched the 2010 game on TV and would love to have that experience.”
With her leadership skills in full view and her offensive contributions starting to come into focus, no wise fan would bet against Kenyon and her Bulldogs. After all, if the St. Cloud State series was any measure of what she can do when she is sick, just imagine what Kenyon and her new linemates are capable of at full-strength.
Probably safe to say Kenyon is ready for the expectations to begin.
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