ERIE, Pa. – Driving west on I-90, Tullio Arena is some 560 miles from Danvers, Mass.
Driving east on I-80, the home of the 2011 NCAA Women’s Frozen Four is some 540 miles from Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.
In a way, it’s fitting that Meghan Duggan and Holly Lorms met there on Sunday to play for the NCAA Championship.
The Wisconsin captain from 20 miles outside Boston and the Boston University captain from just outside Milwaukee could almost have crossed paths on their trips to Beantown’s Commonwealth Avenue and State Street in Madison. And, when Duggan and Lorms got to their respective destinations, they proceeded to lead the Badgers and the Terriers to milestones in their programs’ histories.
“I know Holly pretty well,” Duggan said, “just through USA Hockey camps and stuff like that. She’s a great kid, a stand-up captain for them, and did an outstanding job in leading their team to where they got this year.
“We work hard, day in and day out, and I think it shows. Tonight, in the building, a packed house. Yesterday, at the Kazmaier brunch, it was sold out. It just shows the growth of the sport. It’s exciting for us.”
Of course, the focus is on Duggan and the Badgers, as it should be. The winner of the 2011 Patty Kazmaier Award as the top player in the nation shared Most Outstanding Player honors with teammate Hilary Knight, as the Badgers claimed the NCAA Championship with a 4-1 win over Boston University. After taking the 2009-10 season off to represent the United States in the Olympics (along with Knight and Badgers head coach Mark Johnson), Duggan returned to Wisconsin for a senior season that saw her win an NCAA Championship for the third time in her career. She graduates as the third Badger to win the Kazmaier, and Wisconsin’s all-time leader in points (237), goals (108), postseason points (45) and points in NCAA tournament games (18).
“I don’t think you can set it up any better than this,” Duggan said. “It’s just an outstanding feeling. We were chasing after that trophy all year. We put a lot of hours in, a lot of hard work in over the last year and nothing feels better. There’s no better way to go out than the weekend that we had this weekend and the year that we had this year.”
After coaching Duggan for five years with the Badgers and in Vancouver, Johnson can certainly appreciate what Duggan has meant to the Wisconsin program.
“I’m certainly happy for Meghan,” Johnson said, “not only for what she received yesterday, but what she showed everybody today, and what our team showed everybody today.”
Lorms’ contributions, on the other hand, are a little harder to see as she wraps up her Terriers career with a loss. Graduating with 52 points (27g, 25a) in 134 career games, Lorms’ achievements aren’t the sort that wind up at the top of record books, and her name doesn’t stand out in the sport like those of teammates like Catherine Ward and Marie-Philip Poulin, who won gold medals with Canada last year. However, she captained the Terriers to the championship game at the Women’s Frozen Four in their sixth year of varsity women’s hockey, the first Hockey East team to reach this point.
And, while she may have come froscom Wisconsin, she had no doubts on Sunday about where she belonged.
“I told my team in the locker room how proud I was to be a Terrier today,” Lorms said. “Yeah, I’m from Wisconsin, and I do know a lot of those players – they’re fantastic people – but I’m exactly where I should be, with the people I should be with after four years.”
What’s more, Lorms is confident that while Sunday marked the end for her NCAA hockey career, it was just the beginning for BU.
“It will not be the last time that Boston University is in a championship game,” Lorms said. “With the youth and the talent that this squad has coming back next year, I guarantee that it will not be the last time that Boston University is in a championship game, and they’ll be bringing it home soon.”
BU head coach Brian Durocher, preparing for life without the passionate captain, shares her enthusiasm for the future of his program.
“Holly’s a real proud person of what happened here,” Durocher said, “the fact that she feels a big part of Boston University hockey, saw it grow in a great way, and now she’s been surrounded by a very talented group of people who took it to the championship game. Holly speaks from the heart, and hopefully, I can back it up and make sure that she’s correct.”
In the end, one captain left Erie with the spotlight shining brightly on her and her historic accomplishments, while the other left in the shadow of defeat. In time, though, both women’s contributions will be well remembered, from Boston to Wisconsin and back.