Sports RI: Nikki Friesen, Rhody Women’s Club Hockey Head Coach

by Benjamin Smith, senior sports media and public relations major and intern, Dept. of Communications and Marketing, University of Rhode Island

Photo, top: URI women’s club hockey team head coach, Nikki Friesen, left, and assistant coach Lauren Hill, watch the action during a game at the Boss Arena. 

The University of Rhode Island’s women’s ice hockey club team’s coach, Nikki Friesen, is excited and optimistic about her team’s future as her first season at URI comes to a close.

Friesen came to URI with an impressive hockey resume. Originally from Corvallis, Oregon, she played for the Harvard University Division 1 women’s hockey team from 2014 through 2018, earning a bachelor’s degree in economics during that time. She played another year of collegiate hockey at Lindenwood University where she received a master’s degree in business in 2020. She also coached top-level youth hockey in Greenwich Connecticut and was an assistant coach at Sacred Heart University.

Friesen’s hockey pedigree makes her assessment of her team that much stronger.

“Overall, I’ve been pretty impressed with our rebuild, as last year we won two league games, and this year we’ve won six league games.” Friesen said. “Next year we are looking to improve even more.” 

Friesen moved to the Ocean State in May 2023 from Connecticut.  From the minute Friesen stepped foot on URI’s Kingston campus, she was smitten. 

“I really loved the minute I met the players,” Friesen said. “Their drive and spirit were so strong right from the beginning.”

She also became enamored with the number and variety of other sports across campus, realizing that URI was the place for her.

“What I like about the collegiate level is that players are really committed to being on the ice, both in practice and games. It’s not like youth hockey where kids miss practice and games for all kinds of reasons” Friesen said.

Team captain Emily Jedson of West Greenwich, Rhode Island, has high praise for the new coach.

“Coach Nikki has completely turned this program around this season,” Jedson said. “Her knowledge and experience at the Division 1 level coupled with her drive and work ethic have allowed us to push ourselves to be our best every day. We have learned so much over the course of the season, and we are excited to continue to grow and build on our foundation next year.”

The women’s hockey team practices four times a week, with each session having a different theme. Monday is usually the team’s push-day practice, with more full ice action, and it’s a higher intensity practice. Tuesday practices are more skill-based, as the players work on more technical individual skills. Wednesday practices are more team focused, and Thursday practices are lighter and more fun to get the team excited for the games on the weekend. Players also participate in two off-ice strength training sessions each week.

“I knew this would be a rebuilding year for the team, and so I wanted to set a high standard, with clear expectations for the team,” Friesen said.

“This team has provided me with the opportunity to figure out who I truly am as a person, player, and leader,” said Jedson, a kinesiology and dietetics double major. “I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to play for this program and to be surrounded by my best friends every day. The support I have felt from the team has always pushed me to be my best every day and to always put the team first. I’m so proud of everything we were able to overcome this season and the success we have had. It is an honor and a privilege to be able to represent the program this season.” 

Alternate captain, Serena Batacchi, a resident of Sheffield, Massachusetts, and a fashion merchandising major, said, “Being a captain on this team has given me a new perspective on what it truly means to be a teammate. Over the years, this team has helped me develop a motivating dynamic that makes each day exciting and rewarding. I feel at home with my teammates and proud of the success we have had this year.”

“Across the board, we have 24 players and each and every one of them is invested in bettering themselves every day. The women are super fun and really dedicated to learning,” Friesen said.

“This year has meant so much to our team,” said alternate captain Paige Spooner, a resident of Scarborough, Maine, and a nursing major. “Through the adversity we faced from the beginning to the end, we really stood together and showed our strengths. I feel proud to be a part of this group’s leadership and believe I will carry the lessons we have learned this year with me forever.” 

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