ERIE, Pa. – For a moment on Saturday morning, Meghan Duggan allowed herself to imagine what it would be like to win the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award as the top player in women’s college hockey.
“I thought about it,” Duggan said, “when I was sitting at my table, how that moment would be if it happened, in a little dreamland.”
When the moment came, however – and Duggan was announced as the winner over Mercyhurst’s Meghan Agosta and Boston College’s Kelli Stack – the senior from Danvers, Mass., wasn’t quite ready for it, pausing several times to collect herself during an emotional acceptance speech that saw her thank family, teammates and coaches.
“The second that I heard my name read,” Duggan said, “I kind of just lost it, and I think my emotions got the best of me.”
Still, all of that can be easily excused. After all, few know as much as Duggan about what it means to win the award.
“It’s an incredible honor,” Duggan said. “There have been past winners that I’ve looked up to a lot. It was a great year for our team, and I was just happy to be part of all that success.”
Duggan played with a Kazmaier winner as a freshman, 2006 recipient Sarah Bauer, as the two led the Badgers to the 2007 NCAA Championship. When the Badgers won it again in her junior season in 2009, Duggan saw her teammate, goaltender Jessie Vetter, win the award as the top player in women’s college hockey.
As a member of the U.S. National Team that played at the Olympics last year in Vancouver, Duggan played against 2008 winner Sarah Vaillancourt and 2001 and 2003 winner Jennifer Botterill. Among her teammates were 2004 winner Angela Ruggiero and 2007 winner Julie Chu, who were playing together in the Olympics when Duggan was 14.
“Those players have paved the way,” Duggan said. “They’ve been incredible role models for me, Julie and Angela especially, and even Jessie was an incredible leader on our Wisconsin team. It’s amazing for me, and it’s a great honor for me to be standing on the same podium as them.”
There’s no question that Duggan is worthy of joining that elite group. With 39 goals and 47 assists in 40 games this season, Duggan is second in the nation in points per game, and set a Badgers program record with a 25-game point streak this season, recording 57 points between October 22 and February 4. What’s more, with a win over Boston University in the NCAA Championship game on Sunday, Duggan could graduate with three NCAA titles in four years.
Still, Duggan is quick to share the praise, crediting Wisconsin head coach Mark Johnson and his coaching staff for helping her develop to the point where she can join the ranks of the elite players in women’s hockey.
“He’s an incredible man,” Duggan said, “on the ice, in the locker room, off the ice. The knowledge that he brings to the game and the passion that he brings to our team is unlike anything I’ve ever been a part of. Year in and year, out, every team I’ve been a part of at the school has been one that respects him and respects the game.”
“Coach Johnson and Tracey DeKeyser and Dan Cook, whom I had for three years and Jackie Friesen this year have been instrumental in helping me as a player and a person, on and off the ice. The coaching style and they way that they challenge us every day, the way that they communicate with us…everything that our staff does for us to make us better people, better hockey players, has been life changing for me. I’ve learned so much from Coach Johnson on the ice and off the ice, that I honestly don’t think I can thank those guys enough.”
One way to say, “Thank you” would be to lead Wisconsin to a win over Boston University on Sunday, winning a third national championship in her final game as a Badger. After seeing the Terriers take down a highly regarded Cornell team on Friday night, however, Duggan knows that she and her teammates have their work cut out for them.
“Tomorrow’s definitely going to be a challenge,” Duggan said. “I had a chance to watch BU’s game last night, and they’ve got a great squad. It’s going to be an outstanding game. Obviously, we’d love to take that home, and now, that’s the focus.”
On Saturday morning, though, it was all about a well-deserved moment in the sun for an outstanding student-athlete and a member of women’s hockey’s elite.
“It’s been an emotional morning,” Duggan said. “I was happy to have my team and my family alongside me. It’s an incredible honor to be named for that award. It’s a very prestigious award, and past winners are players that I looked up to since I was a kid, so I’m very emotional and excited about the whole thing.”