Colby connection paying off for U

David La

Gophers women’s hockey coach Laura Halldorson was hired away from Colby College in Maine in 1996, and she got out just in time.
The expansion of women’s college hockey has since left tiny Colby struggling to keep up, prompting the program’s upcoming drop from Division I to Division III.
Two of Halldorson’s top recruits at Colby — sisters Shannon and Courtney Kennedy, who played a combined three years after the coach’s departure — shared the desire to leave the declining program. But each half of the forward-defender tandem chose to come to Minnesota for slightly different reasons.
“I didn’t want to play against Shannon in college,” Courtney said. “If one of my teammates were to hit her, I’d be tempted to go and knock them over.”
Shannon said the bond with her sister away from the game was a big part of her decision.
“Being so far away from home (in Woburn, Mass.), having her out here is great,” Shannon said. “We went to Colby together, and it worked out really well.”
The transfers have also worked out for the Gophers. No. 2 Minnesota has surged to a 21-2-2 record in the program’s second season, and is a cinch to make a repeat appearance in the American Women’s College Hockey Association Final Four next month.
Shannon, a junior, and Courtney, a sophomore, have been key to that continued success.
“Courtney is a little better known on the ice,” Halldorson said of the first-team All-American defender. “Shannon brings more experience and she’s someone who became a leader very quickly.”
Shannon has played three years of collegiate level hockey — more than any other member of the Minnesota squad. The forward has upped her scoring contribution recently, tallying two goals in each of her last two games. She now has seven for the season, along with 15 assists.
Courtney’s credentials as a player are comparable to her older sister’s as a leader. She has nine goals this season, tops among U defenders.
Only four games remain on the regular season schedule, meaning she’s unlikely to match her nation-leading output of 18 goals last season. But that doesn’t matter to Courtney, who said she understands her role as a defender and playmaker.
“My mentality is you start the play from our zone,” Courtney said. “It’s my job to get it going.”
The sophomore blue-liner plays a game Halldorson describes as “pretty physical,” which might be a reason for Courtney’s current spot atop the penalties list.
But Courtney’s tough exterior during games subsides when the subject turns to her sister. She offers protection for Shannon as a teammate while taking comfort in the relationship she has offered with her sister.
“I really look up to her”, Courtney said. “I don’t know if she knows that.”
Teammates since childhood, it’s seems appropriate that the Kennedy sisters chose to continue on together, this time for the maroon and gold.
Being a part of a hockey team that is not only one of the nation’s best, but also one that has been heavily promoted and supported by the University has been a big plus for the sisters. Shannon said players on the Harvard team were shocked that the Nov. 5 game at Mariucci Arena was televised.
“Hockey is definitely bigger out here,” Shannon said. “It’s a good atmosphere.”

but the coach left for Minnesota before the elder Shannon joined the team.

Much like their reasons for transferring together, the Kennedy sisters were recruited from different perspectives by

The No. 2 Minnesota women’s hockey team was bolstered by the addition of three transfers prior to this season, including sisters Shannon and Courtney Kennedy, who look-out for one another both on and off the ice.