Hilary Knight is one of the most prolific goal scorers in college hockey.
She hasn’t always thought of herself as a scorer, though. It wasn’t until one day during her youth hockey years that the light went on. Suddenly she wanted nothing more than to put the puck in the net.
“In practice over summer league, I ended up scoring on one of the older goalies,” she recalls of one youth league. “From then on I was like, ‘Wow, this feeling is great! I want to be able to do this all the time.’
“So, before that, I don’t remember [having a knack for scoring]. You remember the pig piles when you’re younger and who can put the puck in the net, but it’s fun to score. And I just love that feeling, so I’m always chasing it every game. It makes me stay hungry.”
[Knight Hilary Wis. cov] Knight, of course, is far more than just a scorer. The 5-foot-11 Wisconsin senior forward is a two-time first-team All-American and Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award top-10 finalist, and she has a silver medal as a member of the U.S. team at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
Knight, who began playing at age 6 in Sun Valley, Idaho, is a leader for the No. 1-ranked Badgers, a member of two NCAA championship teams at Wisconsin and a player who coach Mark Johnson credits with being a terrific shot blocker and defender who’s also good on the power play or killing penalties.
But Knight first and foremost is a scorer.
“Her greatest strength as a player is her shot,” Johnson once said of Knight. “She is a classic power forward and has a great knack for getting the puck in the net.”
Knight is Wisconsin’s all-time leader in goals and points.
Twice she has been the NCAA’s leading scorer in Division I, with 47 goals last season and 45 in 2008-09.
In December, after a six-point weekend in a two-game sweep over Bemidji State that gave her 239 career points — passing the 238 scored by teammate Meghan Duggan, who graduated after last season — Knight moved into the top five for career points in Division I women’s hockey.
As the youngest member of the U.S. team at Vancouver, Knight made an impact with eight points.
Said former U.S. Olympic star and Hockey Hall of Famer Cammi Granato of Knight in Vancouver: “She is a big goal scorer. She loves to be involved in the offense, has a great release and one of the best shots I’ve ever seen in women’s hockey.”
For Knight, though, there’s more to scoring than flipping the puck past the goaltender. She loves working in concert with her teammates and knowing that every goal helps her team win.
“It’s not like somebody can just go down the ice and score a goal,” she said. “There’s so many other [things] involved, especially who you’re playing with. So it’s a good feeling when you can break the puck out and go into the other zone and have someone feed you, or you’re digging the puck out and somebody’s right behind you and they’re going to help you out …
“There’s just so many things that go into scoring a goal and how it was created.”
Knight counts her blessings at being able to play at Wisconsin, with so many other talented players and Coach Johnson. She’s had the chance to go to the Frozen Four three times and win twice, and that experience never gets old. It becomes a driving force, she said.
She thinks “every day” about having the chance to win one final time as a senior.
After last year’s championship season, and the loss of key seniors such as Duggan, she thought there might be some “hiccups.” But this season has been better than expected, and the younger players have provided a spark.
“There’s just something about our team,” she said. “We’re able to generate energy from our youth, which keeps it fun and keeps it dynamic. It’s really cool.”
After seeing Duggan win the Kazmaier Award last season, Knight admits to thinking what it would be like to be honored with it as well, “Just because it’s the most prestigious award for women’s hockey.”
Following graduation she hopes to get a chance to play for Team USA at the Sochi Winter Games in 2014, after perhaps honing her skills in a men’s pro league in Sweden — something she’d love to have the opportunity to do.
For now, though, her focus is getting back to the Frozen Four and her opportunity as a senior to be a leader and help the younger players, just as she was helped.
“I had Erika Lawler and Angie Keseley taking me under their wings when I was younger here,” she said. “And I think it’s important as a way of giving back and taking one of the younger kids under your wing. … Really developing the future talent. It’s important to give back and pass along.”
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