Globe South Sports

Harvard hockey star has smart moves

By Marvin Pave
Globe Correspondent / December 26, 2010

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The Harvard women’s hockey team was trailing rival Yale, 3-2, late in the third period of their season opener in late October. Leanna Coskren controlled the puck after a blueline scrum and whipped it across ice to fellow captain Liza Ryabkina, who scored the equalizer with 14 seconds left in regulation that was crucial in an overtime tie.

Just Coskren showcasing her skill, and vision, as a puck-moving defender.

“One of the better parts of my game is passing and finding people who are open,’’ said Coskren, a 5-foot-5 defenseman from Walpole who had two goals and seven assists at the semester break for the Crimson, who were 5-6-2 overall and 4-2-2 in ECAC play.

“It was a hard-fought game and kind of emotional since [Yale head coach Joakim Flygh] was a Harvard assistant last year and it was definitely a good way to go into our next game.’’

A graduate of Noble and Greenough in Dedham, where she starred on a pair of New England prep championship teams, Coskren earned second team all-Ivy honors last season after recording career highs in goals (8), assists (11), and points (19) in Harvard’s run to the NCAA Division 1 quarterfinals. She was also a nominee for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award as the top women’s player in the nation.

“Leanna has been one of the smartest and steadiest defenders we’ve had in our program,’’ said Crimson head coach Katey Stone. “She sees the ice and feels pressure well and also has a keen sense of when to jump up into the play and when to maintain a defensive stance. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed coaching her.’’

Coskren was no stranger to the Bright Hockey Center before she arrived at Harvard. Her brothers, Nick and Mike, played for the Harvard men’s team. Two other brothers, Tim and Tony, laced up for the Holy Cross varsity a few seasons ago with Tony serving as a team captain. All four Coskren boys skated at St. Sebastian’s in Needham. And all five Coskren offspring played for their father, Tim, in the Norwood Pee Wee A program.

“If our team at Nobles played on a Saturday several of us would go to see Harvard on Friday, and I really loved the atmosphere there,’’ said Coskren, who is joined on the Harvard women’s team by four other graduates from Nobles.

“I also had a chance back then to meet some of the women’s players and learn about their program. I did visit other colleges interested in recruiting me, but Harvard was becoming a special place for me after seeing my brothers play there.’’

But there was also a bit of self-imposed anxiety about her readiness to play the college game after she suffered a season-ending knee injury in her final season at Nobles.

“It was a nine-month recovery but it did teach me a lesson about how to be part of a team in a different way, of being supportive from the sidelines,’’ said Coskren, a standout field hockey player who also played softball in prep school.

“I was ready physically, but definitely nervous my first few games as a freshman because it was the first time I had played since the injury. But I was also looking forward to learning from some great upperclass players and improving my all-around game.’’

At Nobles, Coskren was an All-Independent School League selection in all three sports and recipient of the Shield Award as the school’s top female athlete. She scored goals in New England prep championship games under coach Tom Resor.

“Leanna’s injury was a blow to us. She was our only senior defenseman,’’ recalled Resor. “But she was still there for us because she’s a natural leader. She played like a veteran for us as a freshman and I couldn’t have asked for more from her. She was a classic, sound, defenseman and it doesn’t surprise me that she’s done so well at Harvard,’’

Coskren also played for the Assabet Valley club team out of Concord and as a 12-year-old was the only girl on three boys’ teams.

She still turns to her older brothers for advice.

“They come to a lot of my games and I feel comfortable asking what I could do better,’’ she said, “and they don’t hold back. Their honesty is good — and helpful.’’

Coskren, who has seen regular time on the power play as a junior and senior, delivered in the postseason a year ago. She scored goals in the ECAC quarters against Princeton and the NCAA quarters vs. Cornell.

“Being named a captain by my teammates at the end of last season was an honor, especially on a team with a history of success,’’ said Coskren, a sociology major who interned last summer with a financial firm in Boston.

For her father and mother, Paula, the years of traveling to rinks to see their children play are coming to an end.

“We’ve had so many great times with them,’’ said Tim Coskren, the assistant girls’ coach at Norwood High, as well as coach of the Randolph-based South Shore Dynamos boys’ team.

“On Saturdays, my wife and I would split up so we could catch all their games and on Sunday we’d compare notes. Now it’s nice to be able to focus on Leanna’s final season.’’

Marvin Pave can be reached at 508-820-4223 or