Growing up as a youth hockey player in Danvers, Team USA women’s captain and two-time Olympic medalist Meghan Duggan couldn’t have known where the game would take her. But, by the time her game began to progress and evolve as a high school player at Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Duggan herself began to see that the game could take her places.
“When I think back to high school, that's when I started developing any skill that I had,” Duggan said. “I thought, ‘Wow, if I keep working hard and keep trying to become a better version of myself, I think I could go forward with the sport.’”
Forward she went. From Cushing, Duggan went on to star at the University of Wisconsin, where, as a senior, she led the nation with 87 points, including 39 goals, in 41 games and won the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award. With the Badgers, she also won three national titles. Her coach at Wisconsin? Miracle on Ice leading scorer Mark Johnson.
“Pretty solid guy to learn from there, in terms of shooting and goal-scoring,” she said.
Duggan, again an Olympic hopeful for the 2017 Games, and now training as a leader at Team USA’s training-in-residence facilities in Florida, offered some scoring tips.
Shoot, shoot, shoot ...
What’s a good number of pucks to shoot when you’re practicing your shot?
“As many as you can, really,” Duggan says. “It's the age-old quote that 100% of the shots you don't take don’t go in. We talk a lot on our team about getting that shot count up because it's going to increase our chances of scoring goals. So, for me, anytime I'm on the ice, or anytime I'm in a drill, even from an off-ice standpoint, I want to shoot as many pucks as I can on every given day. In my lifetime, so many thousands of pucks.”
For fun, Duggan may aim for posts, or play games of H-O-R-S-E or P-I-G, shooting to match skills with her teammates.
Find your technique ...
Duggan is listed at 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, which gives her advantages that some smaller players might not have – and vice versa.
“I think, for me, having some size and strength, you want to use that to your advantage,” she says. “With my shot, I make sure I'm not just using my wrists, or just using my arms. I want to get my legs in there and put full force behind the puck. It's all about weight transfer and the right torque of the wrists. Through repetition, I've shot so many pucks in my life, I don't often think about the actual breakdown. I tend to shoot more off my back foot, or a little bit behind, rather than reaching and leaning forward, to be able to put my full transfer of body weight behind the puck.”
See the shot ...
The imagination of a player at every age can also come in handy.
“You do all that work off the ice,” Duggan says. “You talk to a lot of elite athletes at a high level, and practicing doesn't have to stop when you leave the rink.
“Imagine yourself in certain situations. The mind is pretty powerful. There's always time you can go over certain mechanics in your head and see how your body feels as you're going through those things. How are you going to respond? Picture yourself scoring goals and that all helps.”
Think like a scorer ...
Sometimes, seeing the goalie as an obstacle can be an issue. Goal-scorers without much time or space often play the odds and shoot where a goalie might naturally have a hard time saving a puck.
“Playing hockey for so long, you know the dimensions of the net,” says Duggan. “Sometimes, you just have to go by feel. Go by instinct. You know that, for the most part, the goalie is going to be standing right in the middle of the net. So, find those holes and look past the goalie, and kind of see yourself scoring.”
Play to your weaknesses ...
Playing to your strengths in hockey really is the easy part. So, should you figure out what you don’t do so well and work on it?
“One hundred percent,” says Duggan. “I say that a lot to the groups I talk to about anything. Making yourself uncomfortable is how you grow. It's easy for us to step on the ice and work on the things that were good at. But, for us as national team players, and throughout my whole career, what I've tried to do when I step out on the ice – if you have free time, or during certain drills – is work on the things that you're not good at. Continuing to avoid them doesn't help anyone. It doesn't help yourself or the team. So I definitely try to work on those things all the time.
No matter your age, don’t worry about judging yourself on what you’re able to do today. For instance, so many youth players want to be able to lift the puck off the ice.
“What I would tell them is that some of the best goals are scored low and on the ice,” says Duggan. “Goalies sometimes like it when you lift the park. It can mean they don't have to work as hard to make the save. So don't be in a rush to lift the puck. Some of us at this level are trying to train ourselves to shoot low more often because we're trying to go high all the time.”
Overall, though, there’s a message that carries so much more in terms of a life-long tip.
“I'd also just say to have fun with it,” Duggan says. “At these young ages, they should still love and enjoy the sport. They shouldn't worry about having a picture perfect shot or shooting thousands of pucks every day as a 10-year-old. Just enjoy the sport and let yourself grow and develop. Having grown up through the sport, that's what I did, and I think it was a pretty successful path.”