For over a decade, Hilary Knight has been one of the most prominent figures in women’s hockey, and once again, she has taken center stage at the 2021 World Championships. Knight entered the tournament with 43 goals, one shy of matching Hockey Hall of Famer Cammi Granato for the all-time goal record at the Women’s Worlds.
Once the Americans kicked off the long-awaited tournament, it didn’t take long for Knight to reach the record held by her childhood idol. In her second game of the tournament against Finland, the forward put the puck past Finnish goaltender Meeri Raisanen to score her 44th world championship goal. Knight knew she had scored a goal, but had yet to realize that she had just made history. “To be honest I didn’t even know,” she said with a laugh. “It’s just one of those things. You have to cherish every single minute you’re in this jersey.”
Just two days later, in her next possible chance, almost on schedule, Hilary Knight once again made history. She took sole possession of the first place spot moving ahead of Granato. With her goal, she also tied Granato for the most points by an American at the tournament with 78.
Knight’s 45th goal added more than just one record to the history books. Longtime friend and teammate Brianna Decker got the lone assist on the goal which was her 39th career world championship assist, a mark which puts her in first place all-time in assists amongst American forwards at the world championships.
“Obviously it’s a really special game, I get to share a puck with Brianna Decker,” Knight said. “When Decks has the puck, you know you just gotta get open.”
After years of playing together at both the national stage and in professional league play, Decker has come to learn what she needs to do when Hilary Knight is skating alongside her. “I’ve had the privilege and honour of playing with Hilary [Knight] and Kendall [Coyne Schofield] a lot throughout my career,” said Decker. “And man, they make it pretty easy to move the puck in. You know you’re gonna get a lot of assists when you’re on a line with Hilary Knight.”
Scoring goals seems to come naturally to Hilary Knight as she is a player who says she “always wants it (the puck)” and her teammates know it. “She always wants the puck, and honestly, I’d be not smart not to give it to her. Every night, she can find the back of the net,” Brianna Decker said.
“It’s just fun to open the door and let her do what she does,” said U.S. head coach Joel Johnson. “I’ve known Hilary for a long time, I’ve coached against her at the college level, I’ve coached for her at the national team level, and seen her play for a long time, and so I have an appreciation that I’m not sure a lot of other people have. And it’s one thing when you can recognize excellence from a statistical point of view and from an accomplishment standpoint, but it’s also another thing for those that have gotten to know Hilary as a person and as a leader and as an influencer and a significant person in the room. It’s just fun to be around because she does things the right way, she plays an honest hockey game and she deserves all the accolades she’s getting because there’s just nobody that’s been more consistent for as long a period of time in the women’s game then Hilary, so it was just fun to see her accomplish it and get recognized.”
Both Knight and Decker have had strong starts to the tournament, as the Americans have gone 3-0 so far without allowing a single goal against. They take on the Canadians in a heated rivalry game on Thursday.