Freshman Knight helps Badgers reload

first_imgThe University of Wisconsin’s women’s hockey team has become the type of program that does not rebuild but reloads. For proof of this, look no farther than one of the newest Badgers, Hilary Knight.Knight, a freshman forward from Hanover, N.H., was the conference coaches’ pick for the Preseason WCHA Freshman Player of the Year. One might expect a freshman to be giddy over receiving such a prestigious award so early in her career, but Knight is taking the honor in stride.“I don’t feel any added pressure, and it was definitely not expected,” Knight said.”I’m just going out there every game, taking one game at a time and competing.”Knight steps into the lineup with a pair of rather large shoes to fill. The departure of UW’s all-time points leader Sara Bauer opened up a spot for Knight on one of the Badger forward lines along with juniors Angie Kesely and Erika Lawler.So far, Lawler’s been impressed with her new linemate.“Hilary is a very aggressive player. She is really stepping up as a freshman right now,” Lawler said. “She is getting more comfortable now that we are four games [into the season] and she is definitely a great asset to the team.”Knight’s stats in her first four games as a Badger have been impressive. She has tallied two goals and four assists to date, including two assists in Saturday’s win over Robert Morris. Head coach Mark Johnson also has been pleased with the play of the freshman.“Up front I have liked what Hilary Knight has done up to this point,” he said. “Her group (Knight’s line) right now seems to be pretty good.”As happy as the team has been to have Knight, she sounded equally as happy with the team and the way things have been going this season.“I love my teammates,” Knight said. “They are my family, and they definitely made the transition easy, so it’s been great.”Also helping Knight’s transition to UW has been the fact that she really enjoys living, studying and playing in Madison.“I absolutely love [Madison]. No other place compared,” Knight said. “It’s a lot different [than New Hampshire]. I really like the city life, and there is something going on all the time. It’s exciting.”Knight will get a chance to play in her home state later in the season when the Badgers travel to Durham, N.H. to play a two-game set with New Hampshire.Knight had a stellar prep hockey career at Choate Rosemary Hall, where she played for four seasons. She scored 53 goals and tallied 72 total points her senior year in just 23 games and helped her team become New England champions. She was also named Founders League MVP her last two seasons.Last year, Knight was a member of the U.S. senior national team, making two appearances. She was on the roster for the Four Nations Cup last November and was also the youngest player for the United States at the 2007 International Ice Hockey Federation World Women’s Championship. Both teams were lead by Badgers head coach Mark Johnson, and both teams won silver medals.This past summer, Knight represented the United States again in a three-game U-22 series between the United States and Canada. Knight was one of five Badgers on the roster for that series, which provided an early opportunity for her to gel with some of her teammates.It would certainly appear that all those hours of hockey are paying off for Knight. She is tied for the team lead in assists and has been one of the most productive Badgers through the first four games with a plus-minus rating of six.If Knight continues playing aggressively and producing, the Badgers’ pain from the loss of Bauer could be mitigated by the new freshman. One amazing career may have concluded, but another could be just beginning.last_img

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