Throughout her hockey career, Emily Duncan has never shied away from a chance to prove herself.
As a center on the Alpena hockey team, Duncan often finds herself playing against an opponent's best players and she holds her own in a sport known for physicality.
Duncan's hard work and persistence have paid off in a big way early in her senior season after she recently committed to play with Division 3 Adrian College starting next fall.
Emily Duncan, pictured in this December 2011 photo, signed with Adrian College to become the third AHS female hockey player to play at a college level.
"It's hard to describe after eight or nine years of hard work, just having that one moment on me where it all pays off," Duncan said. "It's a privilege to have four more years of hockey, to represent a school and play with a team."
By signing with the Bulldogs, Duncan joins two other former female Alpena hockey players who went on play college hockey. Wendy Stibitz who played for the Wildcats in 1985-86 and played for Rochester Institute of Technology, finished with 56 career points. She also tearned All-Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) honors twice. Jaime VanMassenhove played as a forward for New Hampshire from 2000-2004 and tallied 28 points in 137 games.
Duncan received a phone call from Adrian coach Chad Davis after touring the campus and briefly talking to the coach. She e-mailed him back earlier this month to confirm her interested in joining the team. Duncan plans to enter the pre-med program. Reasons she chose the college included it's proximity to home as well as the school atmosphere.
Duncan has proven herself to be a valuable member of Alpena's squad. Last season, she was the first female hockey player to score for the Wildcats. Now in her second year on the varsity team, Duncan brings experience and a great defensive sense to the ice, cutting off angles on opponents' shots and poking away the puck.
She has easily proven that she can keep up with her male counterparts and has never asked to be treated any differently than her male teammates.
"Absolutely (it's a great accomplishment) and she's a great student too, so she's going for all the right reasons. She deserves it. It's hard for a girl to play in a guy's sport, especially hockey with the physically and she has to undergo a lot of stresses that the guys don't," Alpena coach Pete Doubek said. "She never has asked for any special treatment, she never complains, she puts her nose to the grindstone and works as hard as any guy out here."
Duncan was looking to join competitive team and after looking out east to Division 1 programs, she chose Adrian. As of Dec. 10, the Bulldogs are 10-3 and ranked tenth by the USCHO. Duncan's strong two-way play will be of good use to Adrian as the Bulldogs aim for Northern Collegiate Hockey Association (NCHA) titles. Davis has told Duncan she'll have the opportunity to compete for playing time right away as a forward.
"They're definitely a competitive team, which is also what I was looking for. I wanted to be on a competitive team," Duncan said. "The coach e-mailed me and told me they're moving into the top 10 in D3 and tied for first in their division."
For now, Duncan will focus on helping the Wildcats, who are off to a 4-2 start and will take to the ice this weekend for the Blue Line Tournament. While the Wildcats have struggled in the early part of the season with injuries, Duncan's skills as a defensive center have been all the more valuable with several of the Wildcats' defensemen spending time out of the lineup.
"People always ask, 'Are you afraid to put her out in certain games because of the physical aspect.' I'm not at all," Doubek said. "She can hold her own, she plays smart and she's super smart on both the offensive and defensive ends and that's why she plays center."
As she progresses through this season, Duncan will work on getting faster, improving her stickhandling and becoming an all-around better player for the start of her college hockey career.
While her dream of playing college hockey has been realized, Duncan hopes that what she's been able to achieve will serve as a good example for other female players who might have ambitions of playing in college.
"It's a privilege and an honor to move up to the next level and I really hope it encourages girls to start playing the game and really become competitive with it," Duncan said.