This Week in Division I: Dec. 5, 2008

It is surely one of the more exotically named little towns in all of Alberta, perhaps second only to the inimitably monikered crossroads of Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo-Jump for catching one’s fancy.

We refer, of course, to Ma-Me-O Beach (population 95).

It is the hometown of Carson Duggan, a key cog in the success enjoyed by St. Lawrence University and the reigning ECAC Player of the Week.

Duggan, we should add, is the Saints all-time scoring leader (91-49-140 and climbing) and a big reason why the team is ranked No. 3 in the country heading into the weekend’s contests with Colgate and Cornell.

St. Lawrence, it should be mentioned, is no stranger to a spot among the nation’s elite. So watching them rise to the top of the super-competitive ECAC Hockey league is not such a strange sight.

The question was how the Saints would adjust to the ways of new coach Chris Wells after nine successful seasons under the departed (for Syracuse) Paul Flanagan.

According to Duggan, the transition has been seamless.

“He’s come in and done an unbelievable job,” said Duggan. “I can’t say enough good things. The whole season is part of a process. (With him) everything happens for a reason. We’re building towards something. He preaches on the little things like back checking. The last couple games, it’s just been so much fun.”

Couple games? Let’s try 10. The Saints are 9-1 since Oct. 24, and are 7-1 in league play. Fueling that impressive run were wins over Dartmouth (3-0) and Harvard (3-1) in the same weekend.

At the time, the Green were ranked fourth and the Crimson third. Both were sent away feeling very blue. On the flip side, the wins gave St. Lawrence an extra boost.

“That was probably one of the best weekends since I’ve been here,” said Duggan. “We’ve had a huge rivalry with Harvard. They’re just always good games. Regardless of the rankings. We’ve struggled against them. And Dartmouth the same thing.”

Duggan said both wins followed the same blueprint.

“They were such team effort wins,” she said. “Everyone played well, from the goalie to the D to the forwards. I think it just gave us the confidence and reassurance that we’re good. They were two big wins, and that’s the most important thing. I think at the time, it sent a message to some people.”

It was a message that reverberated beyond downtown Canton, N.Y. (pop. 5,621, or so), which is where Duggan ended up through a series events that were fortunate both for her and the Saints.

It seems that as cozy as tiny Ma-Me-O Beach can be in the summer time, it’s darned isolated the rest of the year. It’s not exactly crawling with college recruiters who have no beaten path to lead them there.

Still, Duggan managed to make her way to St. Lawrence.

“Thank God,” she said. “I’m pretty grateful for that. I had to send my name around. It was very late, and all the scholarships were gone. But one girl (Valerie Chouinard, now at Mercyhurst) backed out of a scholarship. That’s the reason I got it. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to come to.”

Or a bigger one. That is, if you’re used to something a whole lot smaller.

Ma-Me-O Beach makes Canton seem like a sprawling metropolis, which gets Duggan plenty of odd looks from friends at St. Lawrence when she mentions it.

“I tell people,” she said, “that Canton’s actually much bigger than where I come from. Canton actually has a couple street lights. It’s kind of funny.“