In the biggest game of her life — with an Olympic gold medal at stake — Meghan Duggan will always be able to look back without any regrets.
In the biggest game of her life — with an Olympic gold medal at stake — Meghan Duggan of Danvers, Mass., will always be able to look back without any regrets.
Duggan and her Team USA teammates had the bitter disappointment of losing to rival Team Canada on Thursday, but it was a hard-fought 2-0 game that could have gone either way.
“We trained hard. We got ourselves to that game, and it’s unfortunate that we fell a little short,” said the crestfallen University of Wisconsin student, who still has the silver lining of a silver medal to take home.
Duggan said one special moment that she will always cherish came after the game, when the boisterous Canadian fans in attendance spontaneously erupted in chants of “USA, USA.”
“They recognized how hard both teams worked to get here, and I think they respect us as a country that can rival their favorites. I think it just shows it’s big for women’s hockey, and yeah, that was a good feeling,” said Duggan, who played a strong game and generated a couple of good scoring opportunities, but could not beat tournament all-star goalie Shannon Szabados.
Duggan, who took the year off to play for the national team, explained that the missed opportunity of two five-on-three power plays was particularly hard to take — especially because moments after the first two-man advantage ended — the Canadians scored the game’s opening goal, which proved to be the winner.
“Special teams for either team, they disrupt the flow of the game, and when we didn’t capitalize on them, it is just part of the game, I guess. They blocked a lot of shots.”
For U.S. head coach Mark Johnson, who took a year off from coaching Duggan and the Badgers to lead the national team, the game was a chance to become an Olympic gold medalist as both a player and a coach.
While disappointed in the defeat, he said his key message to Duggan and her teammates before the game was to “have no regrets, no excuses, no alibis at the end of the night.”
And he said he doesn’t think they have any reason to feel that way.
“We can walk out of the arena with our heads up high,” said the former men’s star at UW, who led the women’s team to NCAA titles in 2006, 2007 and 2009.
“It’s been a three-and-a-half-year process to get here. Expectations were extremely high, but I’m very proud of my team. I thought they played and competed for 60 minutes today, but just came up a little bit short. As time goes on and they look back, it’s hopefully been a wonderful experience, and one they can be very proud of.”
Duggan’s mother Mary — who was in Vancouver for the Games with her husband, Bob, and Meghan’s siblings, Bryan and Katelyn — said it was the thrill of a lifetime to watch her daughter play.
“It’s hard to put it into words,” she said. "It’s a combination of pride and crazy excitement.”
She added that she was very nervous before each game — pacing all morning and getting to the rink two hours before the puck dropped. She said she’s extremely proud of her daughter’s achievement.
“She’s won a medal at the Olympics, and no one can ever take that away from her,” she said, adding that there has been “tremendous support” from home in the form of text messages and e-mails, and that she has passed every one of those on to Meghan.
Another highlight for Meghan was being able to share the experience with her best friend Erika Lawler, who is from Fitchburg, Mass., and is a key player on the U.S. team.
The two attended Cushing Academy together. Duggan first moved away from home to attend Cushing, a prep school with a distinguished hockey reputation, when she was 14.
“Erika’s a great buddy of mine. She’s one of the hardest workers on the team. It’s always great to see hard work pay off and people get rewarded,” said Duggan.
Said Lawler: “I think that we mentor each other. She’s a huge part of my life, and a huge part of the reason I’m here, and I think the same goes for her, so I think it’s just good to talk to each other, laugh with each other and be there for each other. We’re always supporting each other. And having a best friend like her here definitely makes a huge difference for both of us.”
Duggan has one more year left of NCAA eligibility, and two years to go before she receives a degree in biology at Wisconsin.