Pair of women’s hockey heroes join Clarkson’s coaching staff

As the Clarkson Golden Knights open the 2014-15 NCAA women’s ice hockey season in defense of their national title, two highly accomplished individuals shall be part of the new-look coaching staff. Meghan Duggan, a three-time Frozen Four winner and two-time Winter Games silver-medalist shall be joined by Britni Smith, who scored the game winning tally in the 2014 Clarkson Cup finals.

The two will have big shoes to fill, replacing long-time coaching staff members Shannon Desrosiers and Matt Kelly, who left the program in the aftermath of the 2013-14 campaign. Since the program became part of NCAA Division I hockey in 2003, Shannon Desrosiers was part of the coaching staff and certainly part of the team’s heartbeat.

Smith (left) and Duggan bring NCAA, IIHF and CWHL experience to Clarkson

Smith (left) and Duggan bring NCAA, IIHF and CWHL experience to Clarkson

Her option to leave the team was to spend more time with her family. Of note, Kelly joined the program in 2008 and is becoming the head scout for the US National Women’s Team.

Duggan’s experience and dedication makes her a remarkable mentor for the players at Clarkson. Having served as the US captain at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, she made national news when she opened up about her problems with concussions, making her inactive for one year.

Of note, Duggan’s hockey resume is sterling, with four gold medals at the IIHF Women’s World Championships and a Patty Kazmaier Award at the NCAA level, where she graduated with 238 career points. Serving on head coach Matt Desrosier’s coaching staff will allow her to continue to compete for the US National Team, along with her role as one of the superstars on the Boston Blades.

Taking into account her reputation as an ambassador for the game, Duggan is poised to be a positive influence on the players on the roster. Her experience playing for some highly talented and successful coaches should translate well at Clarkson. At the University of Wisconsin, Duggan played for Mark Johnson, a member of the 1980 Miracle on Ice team. With the Boston Blades, where she helped the club win its first championship, she played for Digit Murphy, one of the most winning coaches in the history of NCAA women’s hockey, reaching over 300 victories with the Brown Bears.

Blueliner Erin Ambrose is certainly on Hockey Canada’s radar as a player that may contend for a spot on the Canadian roster at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games. With two seasons of eligibility remaining, there is no question that Duggan has the potential to be a mentor for her.

An added bonus for Clarkson is the fact that someone of Duggan’s reputation on the coaching staff shall certainly help in the recruiting of future stars. With the nearby region of Eastern Ontario having produced many stars for Clarkson, the chance for such players in that area to play for a coach with Winter Games experience will be a strong selling point.

Having played for archrival St. Lawrence University, the site of Smith behind Clarkson’s bench will bring with it high emotion when the two play each other for the first time this season. Of note, she does bring some coaching experience to the position. During the 2013-14 season, she juggled time playing for the Toronto Furies while serving on Vicky Sunohara’s coaching staff with the University of Toronto Varsity Blues, who enjoyed a 21-9 campaign. Fellow Clarkson alum Brooke Beazer played alongside Smith for the Furies, as the club won their first-ever Clarkson Cup title.

Once again, Ambrose may be a beneficiary of Smith’s arrival. Not only has Smith also served in various coaching capacities with Hockey Canada’s female programs, she has also played with Team Canada’s U22 program (like Ambrose). Her experiences playing defense, along with her tenure in the CWHL may prove vital as Ambrose looks to take the next step in her career. Eligible for the 2016 CWHL Draft, Ambrose may be destined to go as a first-overall pick.

Raised in Port Perry, Ontario, east of Toronto, Smith would compete in 146 contests for the St. Lawrence Skating Saints. Having graduated in 2010, she recoreded the third highest points by a blueliner in NCAA play during her senior season. In addition, she was a top-10 finalist for the 2010 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award.

This was complemented by Second Team All-ECAC Hockey honors as a junior and senior. A former winner of the CWHL’s Rookie of the Year award, Smith also scored the first CWHL goal in an NHL arena (Toronto’s Air Canada Centre).

With Clarkson starting a new chapter in its storied history, it is encouraging to see former female hockey stars expand their careers with coaching roles. Gina Kingsbury, who opposed Duggan at the 2010 Winter Games, was hired as a coach with the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, another proud NCAA program. While the transitions of Duggan and Smith to coaching at the NCAA level should be relatively smooth, they could not have asked to be involved with a better program.

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