One of the superstars during the halcyon days of the St. Lawrence Skating Saints, Carson Duggan has followed it up with a stellar run as a celebrated coach, adding sheen to her brilliant playing career. Possessing a remarkable set of credentials, including NESCAC Coach of the Year Honors, plus the Division II/III Coach of the Year award in 2012, Duggan lends her focus towards the venture of Women's Hockey Life's WHL Academy.
Hailing from Ma-Me-O-Beach, Alberta, located approximately 100 km southwest of Edmonton on the shore of Pigeon Lake, Duggan skated for one of the province’s most iconic women’s ice hockey teams. Gracing the ice with the Edmonton Chimos of the now-defunct Western Women’s Hockey League, she captured a silver medal at the 2004 Esso Women’s Nationals. Worth noting, the team featured the likes of Tarin Podolski, Courtney Sawchuk and Stephanie Jones, who would both call Duggan a teammate at the NCAA Division I level, plus Danielle Walz and Kerry Weiland, among others.
Following such a fabled team, Duggan brought her skills eastbound, lacing up her skates in New York State’s North Country. Amassing 159 points with the celebrated St. Lawrence Skating Saints, she kick-started her record breaking career as the co-recipient of the ECAC Rookie of the Year, the first player in program history to win the Award.
Reaching the 30-goal plateau (and a career-best 44 points) in the 2006-07 season, Duggan was renowned as a catalyst on offense. Emerging as a key building block towards propelling the program into the national championship picture, including four NCAA Tournament Appearances, plus a pair of stints in the Frozen Four, Duggan’s career definitely represented the program’s halcyon days. Before the likes of Cornell and Clarkson emerged as the dominant programs from New York State, the Skating Saints were the pioneering picture of peak performance.
Undeniably, her greatest legacy with the Skating Saints involves her goal-scoring record. From the outset, she was the first women’s ice hockey player to reach 100 career goals. Finishing her sparkling career with 101 goals, Duggan tied Class of 1955 member Brian McFarlane (who would later become a broadcaster for Hockey Night in Canada, CBS and NBC, while obtaining the rights to Peter Puck) as the all-time goal scoring leader in Skating Saints hockey, male and female.
Scoring the historic 100th and 101st goals in the same contest on home ice, as Appleton Arena hosted the Clarkson Golden Knights in the Quarterfinals of the ECAC tournament, it supplied a crowning touch. Coincidentally, said goal would hold eventual linkages to professional women’s ice hockey, while holding a unique connection to her Alberta roots. Former Chimos teammate Courtney Sawchuk would earn the assist on career goal No. 100, as Duggan scored stylishly from behind the net, encompassing the sense of having come full circle.
Afterwards, the next goal that would propel Duggan into Skating Saints immortality held a pair of linkages to the game’s future. Karell Emard, who would compete in the Women’s Winter Classic and hoist the Clarkson Cup in 2017, won the face-off against Clarkson, which saw Duggan grab quick possession. Firing the puck like a laser beam, it soared over the left shoulder of goaltender Lauren Dahm, who would set the record for most appearances at the professional level with the CWHL’s Blades franchise. Adding to the legend of this monumental two-goal performance was the fact that said goals were scored within 97 seconds of each other.
Graduating from St. Lawrence in 2009 with the Martha Finch Female Athlete of the Year Award, Duggan was part of a scintillating senior class that included the likes of Lisa Batchelor, Alison Domenico, Marianna Locke, who served in the capacity of team captain, and Jordan Pyers. Becoming a second family over four fantastic years, the magic of the memories made remain most treasured for a gracious Duggan,
“I cannot say enough about my time at St. Lawrence, it really was one of the best experiences of my life. For me it, was not one single thing or experience that stands out but instead the combination of the people and the place.
Everyone from the students to the faculty and staff to my teammates and coaches made St. Lawrence what it is. Obviously, hockey played a large role in my time there and I couldn't have asked for better teammates and coaches to be surrounded by.
Going to the Frozen Four twice and NCAA tournament was obviously great and it would have been even better to win it all but just getting there is a huge accomplishment that I now appreciate more since coaching at that level.”
Following a stint in Europe with HC Slavia Prava in 2009-10, where she was joined by fellow North American stars Stephanie Jones and Julia Bronson (who would later star for Team USA internationally in ISBHF events), Duggan would engage in the next chapter of her career. Making the transition to coaching, she would quickly rise to the role of head coach.
Having joined the Trinity College Bantams as an assistant, she was made the program’s interim coach during the 2011-12 season. Leading the Bantams to a respectable 15-11 overall mark (including 9-7 in NESCAC Conference Play), admirably rebounding from a dismal 1-6 start, Duggan would win 13 of her final 17 games of the regular season.
Before her time with Trinity expired, Duggan would also be recognized as the New England Hockey Writers Division II/III Coach of the Year, along with a nod as the NESCAC Coach of the Year. With later stints on the coaching staff at the Division I level with the Ohio State Buckeyes, followed by the Connecticut Huskies, Duggan has witnessed the collegiate game evolve in numerous facets. In discussing her observations concerning the changes that have defined her coaching odyssey, such insights have also included comparisons to when she graced the ice,
“First off, I would say sheer numbers of girls playing hockey. There are so many more girls at all levels playing the sport so as a college recruiter you have so many more options as to where to find players.
The game itself has certainly gotten faster. The attention to off-ice training has become the norm at junior high and high school levels that the girls are coming into college stronger and faster and with a high level of strength training knowledge.
Lastly, the recruiting process has obviously sped up and players are committing earlier than ever compared to when I played!”
Through it all, Duggan’s determination on the ice and in the coaching ranks was only outmatched by an incredible combination of acumen and diligence in the classroom. Earning a pair of Master’s Degrees, brilliantly balancing the academic obligations of such demanding studies while serving as a coach, another equally demanding task, the display of character and commitment may stand as her greatest hallmark.
Definitely, one of the under-recognized legacies of women’s ice hockey are the remarkable number of competitors who embody the positive definition of student-athlete. Throughout the evolution of collegiate hockey at both the NCAA and USPORTS levels, many players have not only graduated to the coaching ranks, but have pursued post-graduate studies. Reflecting on such a formative time, the results of combining athletics and academia proved to be richly rewarding for Duggan, her achievements certainly inspiring for a new generation of promising players,
“It certainly had its moments where it was challenging but overall I would not have changed anything. I was grateful to be able to continue my education while still staying involved in the sport I love.
When I found my second Masters it was a no brainer for me to enroll in a world class program where I was able to combine my two favorite subjects: sports and business.
My advice to young payers is never stop learning. This does not mean you have to formally continue in higher education but always seek to learn whether it is through books, articles, podcasts, documentaries, or just having conversations with different people.
In my opinion, you can always better yourself in every aspect of your life it is just up to you do actually do it.”
Considering that coaches take on multiple roles, from mentor and role model, to big sister and educator, Duggan brings a remarkable wisdom acquired throughout seasons past, along with a strong hockey acumen to WHL Academy. Geared at providing auspicious talent with the empowering encouragement to follow their own dreams, the ideals and principles complement her own views on the game, proud to equip players with both confidence and comprehension. Serendipitously, Duggan found her own muse in making the decision to join WHL Academy, another remarkable individual with her own proud ties to Huskies hockey,
“First and foremast, Jaclyn Hawkins. I have had the pleasure of getting to know her over the past couple years and you will be hard pressed to find a more genuine, passionate and caring person. It did not take long to see her vision and passion for WHL Academy. She has transformed it from a central information hub for everything women's hockey into a platform to help young aspiring women's hockey players reach their goal of playing the sport they love at the next level.
It made perfect sense for me to help as one of my favorite things about coaching was helping parents and players navigate the ever changing recruiting process. I was never huge into selling a specific school but instead educating people on the general process which is essentially what WHL Academy does.
We do not sell individual kids to school but instead equip these players with all the tools to sell themselves. My beliefs aligned with WHL Academy in helping prospective student-athletes succeed during the recruiting process but also beyond in life.
Being from a small western Canadian town, I sympathize with those that are not as familiar with or are foreign to the recruiting process, so any way I can help change that I am all for!”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Edmonton Chimos photo by Lara Pal
St. Lawrence Game Action photo by Cheryl Vasileff Pyers
With HC Slavia teammates Julia Bronson and Steph Jones obtained from the Julia Bronson Collection
Jason Hunter, Watertown Daily Times