Duggan wins Kazmaier

Wisconsin senior forward Meghan Duggan won the 2011 Patty Kazmaier Award.

“It’s an incredible honor,” Duggan said. “Obviously, it’s a very prestigious award and there’s been past winners I’ve looked up to a lot. Patty Kazmaier, it’s incredible to be on a level equated with her. It was a great year for our team, and I was just happy to be part of that success.”

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In her four years at Wisconsin (she skipped last season competing for Team USA in the Olympics), Duggan amassed 108 goals and 129 assists for 237 points in 158 games. This year was her best performance by far, with 39 goals and 47 assists for 86 points in 40 games with one game left to play on Sunday.

Duggan understands however, that it is far from an individual sport.

“My team, I love you guys,” she said. “It’s impossible for me to describe how much you mean to me this year. The genuine love is something I’ve never experienced on a team I’ve been a part of. You guys are an incredible group of girls. Thank you for such a great year.”

“We’re excited for Meghan but also for her family,” Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson said. “I couldn’t be happier. A great candidate. Meghan was very worthy.”

“Thank you very much to the Kazmaier-Sandt family for your continual support of women’s hockey over the years,” Duggan said. “It’s a tremendous honor to be standing up here to win such a prestigious award. So, thank you very much.

“To coach [Mark] Johnson, Jackie [Friesen] and Tracey [DeKeyser]. thank you so much for everything you guys have done for me. You challenged me everyday. I’ve become a better player. I owe you guys a lot for taking a chance on me on bringing me to the University when I was a freshman. I’ve grown a lot in my four years, so thank you very much.

“And last, my family who is here with me today and has been with me through everything, traveled everywhere. I can’t thank you guys enough. I appreciate your love and support, and I couldn’t have done it without you.”

The Patty Kazmaier Award is more than just the effort on the ice. In keeping with Kazmaier’s spirit and willingness to help others, part of the award is also civic involvement. Duggan fulfilled that role appropriately. The biology major from Danvers, Mass., volunteered at the University of Wisconsin Kids Clinic, the Ronald McDonald House and Children’s Hospital, and with Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin.

Duggan beat out the two other finalists, Meghan Agosta of Mercyhurst and Kelli Stack of Boston College. In fact, due to the two Meghan’s, the announcer drew suspense with a long pause after saying “Meghan.”

“My heart stopped a little bit,” Duggan admitted later. “It was a real honor to be up there in the top three and however today went I was going to be gracious either way. The two other nominees, Kelli and Meghan, are incredible players and to be on the level with those guys was an honor.”

During her acceptance speech, she also acknowledged her competitors: “Meghan and Kelli, I got the opportunity to play with you and against you guys. Meghan, you are an incredible, incredible hockey player. It’s been an honor playing against you both in college and on the national level, by far one of the better players in the world. Kelli, congratulations on everything. You’re a great friend of mine and an incredible player, and I’m lucky to have played with you and against you the other night.”

Wisconsin defeated Stack’s Boston College team, 3-2, in the semifinal round. The Badgers now face Boston University in the national championship Sunday afternoon. Duggan has some extra pressure in that the two previous Patty Kazmaier winners from Wisconsin subsequently led their team to victory in the title game, both by shutouts. Sara Bauer did it in 2006 followed by Jessie Vetter in 2009.

“The one common thing is certainly their performance on the ice,” Johnson said of the three Wisconsin winners. “Meghan, the way she conducts herself off the ice and goes about business and the respect she has for her teammates speaks volumes for who she is.”

“Tomorrow is definitely going to be a challenge,” Duggan said. “I got a chance to watch BU’s game last night, and they’ve got a great squad. I think it’s going to be an outstanding game. Obviously, we’ll like to bring that home, and that’s the focus now.”

“You watched her, and she’s played 40 very consistent games over the course of time,” Johnson said. “You knock on wood and hope her best game is tomorrow.”