A Rare Double For NWHL Star And Clarkson Assistant Meghan Duggan
Sidney Crosby probably never had a day like this.
Two-time Olympic silver medalist Meghan Duggan split an unusual doubleheader that could only happen in elite women's hockey, where modest paychecks require players to work multiple jobs to make ends meet.
As an assistant coach at Clarkson University in upstate New York and a star forward for the Buffalo Beauts of the National Women's Hockey League, Duggan finds herself juggling roles every weekend. It reached a manic level Sunday, when Clarkson and the Beauts played postseason games 50 miles apart in Connecticut.
Duggan hustled to make both, then drove five hours back to campus, getting in well past midnight. She slept fast, and was back in her office Monday morning breaking down tape.
"The crazy thing is, this is pretty much a weekly occurrence," a surprisingly cheery Duggan said Monday in a telephone interview from Clarkson. "That's pretty much the story of my life. A few differences here and there each weekend, location- and travel-wise. This was probably the craziest weekend I've had."
Duggan is in her second season coaching at Clarkson, in Potsdam, New York, near the Canadian border. It's about a four-hour drive from Buffalo. Duggan's coaching duties come first, and Clarkson generally plays Friday nights and Saturday afternoons.
A third Olympic trip remains a goal for the 28-year-old Duggan, the 2014 U.S. captain, and the NWHL's Sunday schedule fit her training perfectly. (Her $22,500 salary playing in the first-year league helps as well.) Clarkson coach Matt Desrosiers gave her Sundays off to pursue it.
Duggan is one of at least six college coaches or support staffers on NWHL rosters, along with Buffalo teammate Kelley Steadman (Robert Morris), Boston's Kacey Bellamy (Merrimack), and Connecticut's Jessica Koizumi (Yale), Alyssa Wohlfeiler (UMass-Boston) and Lindsay Berman (UMass-Boston's interim head coach).
Home games mean long Saturday night and Sunday night drives, which Duggan accepted as part of the deal.
"Right now, I'm so used to it, it's like a 20-minute drive to me," she said. "People think I'm nuts. Drive four hours, play, turn around, come back. My personality is pretty go-go-go. I find a way to make it work."
Sunday's double, though, required detailed planning, a bit of luck, and a lift from Duggan's parents Bob and Mary, who live in Massachusetts.
Right now, I'm so used to it it's like a 20-minute drive to me. People think I'm nuts. Drive four hours, play, turn around, come back. My personality is pretty go-go-go. I find a way to make it work.Meghan Duggan
Clarkson, ranked No. 5 nationally, brought a 17-game unbeaten streak into the ECAC tournament on Saturday and Sunday at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut. Less than an hour away in Stamford, the Beauts faced the Connecticut Whale in a three-game NWHL semifinal series at Chelsea Piers Friday through Sunday.
"My mom was asking me, 'What's the plan?'" said Duggan, who rode down on the team bus. "I sent her an email that was probably six paragraphs long, detailing everything. It was too funny."
The Whale swept all six games from Buffalo in the regular season, and made it seven straight with a 3-0 victory Friday in Game 1. That put Duggan on alert for a possible Sunday dash if the Beauts extended the series.
Clarkson handled Colgate 5-2 as expected in Saturday's ECAC semifinals, and Duggan remained in Hamden to help the Golden Knights prepare for top-seeded and fourth-ranked Quinnipiac in Sunday's championship. Meanwhile, down the road, the Beauts surprised the Whale 4-1 to even their series.
Sunday's ECAC final started at 2 p.m., four hours before the puck drop for Buffalo-Connecticut Game 3. Tight, but doable.
The afternoon game saw Clarkson lose a heartbreaker, 1-0, on a Nicole Brown one-timer late in the first period. After meeting postgame with the players, Duggan jumped into her mom's Toyota Camry for the straight shot down Interstate-95 to Stamford. That can be a traffic-choked stretch on a lot of Sundays, but not this one.
"The traffic was nonexistent, thank god," Duggan said. "That could have made the timing a bit tighter."
The Duggans pulled in at 5:15 p.m., 10 minutes before the Beauts were due on the ice for warm-ups.
"I told the girls, 'Hey, I'm coming in hot,'" Duggan said. "They screamed when I ran in the locker room. They were all half-dressed, getting ready for warm-ups. They had all been there for an hour. I threw on my stuff as quickly as I could, warmed up, and it was go time."
Duggan assisted on a Megan Bozek slap shot for the game's first goal, and Buffalo won a tight one, 4-3, advancing to this weekend's Isobel Cup final against Boston. Duggan had arranged for her personal car to be left at Chelsea Piers, so after the game she said goodbye to her parents and headed back to Clarkson.
"The game ended at 8:30 p.m.," Duggan said. "I was in the car by 9 o'clock, drove five hours, and made it to my house at 2:30 in the morning."
This weekend figures to be equally hectic. Clarkson (29-4-5) qualified for the eight-team NCAA tournament and again travels to Quinnipiac (30-2-5) for a 2 p.m. game Saturday. The neutral-site Isobel Cup best-of-three final will be in Newark, New Jersey, at the Prudential Center practice rink. Saturday's Game 2 starts at 7:30 p.m. The sites are 95 miles apart.
Again, doable -- the Cross Bronx Expressway permitting.
"To be honest with you, I got in so late last night, we're going over tape, I haven't sat down and planned it logistically out," Duggan said. "I'm sure it will be another crazy, whirlwind weekend."