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Empire State Games — The Altamont Enterprise, February 19, 2009

Tullock and Cooley, Adirondack Hockey veterans, take home silver

By Jordan J. Michael

LAKE PLACID –– Susan Tullock and Susan Duggan-Cooley are line mates on the Adirondack Women’s Hockey team and have a combined total of 14 Empire State Winter Games medals.

This past weekend, the pair added two more silver medals to that total.

Tullock, of Guilderland, and Cooley, of Schenectady, met as teammates on the Hudson River Waves, a women’s hockey team based out of Clifton Park. Cooley mentioned the Empire Games to Tullock about seven years ago.

The Adirondack team had a 10-to-0 win over Hudson Valley on Friday at the 1932 Rink in Lake Placid in the first round of games. Cooley had a goal in the lopsided game. Tullock and Cooley had high hopes for a gold medal after the game.

“We are one of the superior teams in this competition,” Cooley said on Friday. “We have to come out with a gold because this might be the last year of the Games with all the funding issues going on.”

Western ended up coming away with the gold medal on Sunday after a 2-to-2 tie with Adirondack. Both teams were 3-1-1 over the weekend. Adirondack finished the Games with 27 goals to Western’s 13.

“We couldn’t have come any closer to a gold medal,” said Tullock on Tuesday. “The tie-breaker goes by goals against and Western gave up six goals to our nine. They were playing for a tie but we tried hard to get a goal. It was disappointing, but a silver is better than no medal at all.”

Adirondack beat rival Central, 5 to 2, in the opening game on Friday morning. “The first three games were great because we won all three and scored plenty of goals,” Tullock said. “The first game against Central was huge because we usually struggle with them.”

“The team is really clicking out there and they always do well in the Games,” said Jim Duggan, Cooley’s father, during the Hudson Valley game. “It always comes down to Adirondack, Central, and Western every year. They always fight over medals.”

The third game for Adirondack was a 10-to-3 victory over New York City. Tullock and Cooley both had a goal. The next game for Adirondack was a 2-to-0 loss to Long Island on Saturday afternoon.

“The last game against Western was really exciting and the play was top quality on both sides,” said Tullock. “We pulled our goalie and started firing shots in the final minutes, but we couldn’t get one in the net.”

Growing up with hockey

Cooley has been a member of the Adirondack team since the first women’s hockey competition in 1998. Tullock has been playing in the Empire State Games for the past six years. The two athletes skate on the same scoring line.

“Tullock and I have been skating together on the Waves for some time, but I took this year off,” Cooley said. “I may be getting older, but I don’t puck around!”

The first competition in 1998 was special for Cooley because she scored the first goal of the event.

“I was playing with women that had college hockey experience, so I didn’t get a lot of opportunities in that first year,” she said. “I was on the third line and somehow got a goal. It was a good feeling for my family and I.”

Tullock grew up in the Utica area and was a figure skater until she decided to try out hockey at age 14. “My two brothers played hockey and I wanted to try it,” she said. “It was tough at first, but I started to really like it after a while. I play as much as I can now.”

Tullock went to Boston College from 1991 to 1995 and was a member of the women’s hockey team. She’s a physical therapist and she and her husband, Tony, have two young children. “I had to take some time off from hockey to be a mom,” she said.

Cooley started playing hockey on the frozen surface of the Watervliet Reservoir with her family. “I played with my father, sister, and whoever else showed up,” she said. “Our group eventually rented out Center City in Schenectady and I was playing with guys. I checked this one guy and he ended up being my husband.”

Tullock and Cooley would like to try for a gold medal in 2010, but the future of the Games is uncertain, since the governor proposed cutting state funding, making athletes pay to play.

“I hope this wasn’t the last time,” Tullock said. “It might be harder to get a talented team together if we have to pay to play.”

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