, Salem, MA

March 22, 2011

Simply The Best

By Phil Stacey
Sports editor

Of all the hockey-related things that Meghan Duggan has been able to accomplish during her remarkable young career, she did something late Saturday morning that she never had before.

She instantaneously burst into tears of joy.

Duggan, the 23-year-old captain for the University of Wisconsin women's hockey team, was officially honored by the title that many back in her hometown of Danvers have felt for a long time now: she was the best player in all of women's college hockey. That honor was officially bestowed upon her on this day when she was awarded the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, given annually to the NCAA's best female hockey player, at a ceremony in Erie, Pa.

But that was only the beginning of a huge weekend for Duggan. Sunday afternoon, she helped guide the Badgers to their third NCAA Frozen Four championship in her four seasons by skating past Boston University, 4-1, at Tullio Arena in Erie. She was named co-MVP of the Frozen Four along with teammate Hilary Knight.

"My brother (Bryan) got a photo of me crying right after the (Kazmaier) Award was announced, and it sums up exactly how I felt. It swept me off my feet a bit," said Duggan while going out to grab some coffee with some of her Badger teammates yesterday afternoon.

"I've never before burst into tears in a matter of seconds like that in my life; I guess it was just a culmination of so much that's happened this season, everything I've worked for and everything we've accomplished as a team. Just to be chosen as a top 10 Kazmaier finalist, then a top 3, I was so honored. I think that's why the tears came from me like that; I was honestly shocked when they called my name as the winner."

She accepted the award in front of her entire team and coaches, as well as her family and her best friend and former UW teammate, Erika Lawler, who flew out for the weekend to catch the Badgers' Frozen Four games and Kazmaier ceremony.

Less than 24 hours after playing in her final collegiate game, Duggan was still getting used to the idea that a huge chapter in her life was now closed.

A season removed from taking the 2009-10 college hockey season off at Wisconsin to play for the 2010 U.S. Olympic Women's Hockey team (which she led to a silver medal at the Winter Games in Vancouver), no one could ever claim that Duggan didn't make the most of her senior season. The 5-foot-9 left wing had one of the best individual seasons in NCAA women's history, and certainly one of the most prolific in the Badgers' storied history.

Duggan led the entire country in scoring this year with 87 points (39 goals, 48 assists), also setting a new Wisconsin single-season record in the process. She tied for first in the country in assists and was second in goals scored, power play goals (11) and assists per game (1.18).

Winner of both the Western College Hockey Association (WCHA) Player of the Year and All-WCHA First Team honoree, Duggan led the league in scoring with 61 points (27 goals, 34 assists) in just 28 games. The former Cushing Academy star was named a Division 1 REEBOK Women's Hockey All-American by the American Hockey Coaches Association as well.

She leaves the Wisconsin program not only having won three NCAA titles, but is also the program's career leader in points (238), plus-minus (+164) and power play goals (31) while sitting second in goals (108), assists (130), shots (578) and shorthanded goals (5). No one in Badger history has more NCAA points (19 in a dozen games) or overall playoff points than Duggan, either.

"I honestly don't know if I can wrap my head around everything that's happened just yet," said Duggan, a biology major who will officially graduate this December. "You have to end your career one way or another, and I couldn't have painted a better picture than this season as a whole and this past weekend in particular.

"This season was the best team I've ever been a part of. The chemistry we had was unlike anything I've ever been a part of; the genuine care we had for each other, the love of the game we all shared, the way we worked our butts off each and every day to get to where we ultimately wanted to be ... it was just outstanding."

In the Frozen Four semifinals last Friday, Duggan had a goal and two assists in a 3-2 win over Boston College. She added her fiinal collegiate point, an assist, in Sunday's championship win over BU.

"I could have cared less if I got a point in that game or not; we won the national title and that's all that matters to me," she said. "That was the beauty of our team this season, and Coach (Mark) Johnson said it best: it's amazing what a team can do if no one cares who gets the credit. That was true all season, especially this past weekend."