Thursday, January 13, 2011

Knight raises the bar on scoring goals for UW Women

Last weekend Hilary Knight became the all time leading scorer in UW Women’s history, passing Jinelle Zaugg-Siergiej who originally set the bar at 89 career goals at the end of the 2008 season. Knight currently has 91 goals, has the rest of this season (on a pace of 1.18 goals a game) and ALL OF NEXT SEASON to keep breaking her own record.

I know we have been pretty pathetic on Women’s Hockey coverage so far this season, so in case you forgot, Knight, teammate Meghan Duggan and coach Mark Johnson were all gone last season helping the United States to a silver medal in Women’s Hockey. As a 20 year old, Knight was one of the top scorers on the team and was taken under the wing of Women’s Hockey legend Jenny Potter during her year away from UW.

I’ve been following Knight since the first Women’s game I attended back in February 2008. 60 and another friend challenged me to attend a Women’s game, since like most Men’s fans I figured there wasn’t a good reason to waste my time watching them. Arriving after the game started, I sat down and then watched a UW player weave her way around three Mankato defenders, scoring a highlight reel goal to finish it off. That young lady was Hilary Knight. I was instantly hooked, these women have crazy talent, and w/ out all the clutching and grabbing (and checking) of the men’s game, they really get to show off their skills. My $30 for a season ticket has been well spent since then.

Andy Baggot wrote a great article about Knight today in the WSJ. I learned a lot more about Knight than I already knew. As Baggot describes in his article, the refs credited her w/ what would have been her 90th career and school record goal, but knowing she never touched the puck, made sure she didn’t get credit for it. In the second game of the series Knight scored two goals to set the record. Coach Johnson commented in the article:

"Most people are self-centered and want recognition and want to be on the front page of the paper," Johnson said. "It's nice to see athletes in today's environment do things the right way."

Exactly! Sports at the college and pro levels (and even high school in the major sports) has become such a circus, filled w/ kids and adults whose egos are often so big you’d wonder how the metrodome roof doesn’t explode every Sunday rather than collapse after a snowfall. Players celebrate making a tackle or a meaningless slam dunk, which the last time I looked, was their job to accomplish. The fact that scoring a record breaking goal is an afterthought to an athlete is so out of the normalcy and refreshing it’s hard to believe it’s true. UW has had its share of great players on the Women’s team, but in the end Hilary Knight might end up being the best ever, at least the best non-goalie ever. Jessie Vetter’s accomplishments are a Mount Rushmore all by themselves.

I like the way Baggot ended his article too:

"She wants to do the right things all the time," Johnson said of Knight.

 At her current pace Knight will hit the 100-goal plateau this season, something done only by a handful of juniors in the history of college women's hockey. For some perspective, Johnson had 125 goals in 125 games through three seasons en route to being the all-time leader for the UW men.

 About that goal Knight refused to own: It was at least the third time this season she did so. One came at the expense of a hat trick, which didn't bother Knight one bit.

 "No matter who's scoring," she said, "I'm celebrating the same way."

Hilary Knight is the kind of role model young kids should have growing up; too bad they are in such short supply.

The Women, who remain #1 in the country at 20-2, return home this weekend to take on the winless St Cloud Huskies. Friday night @ 7 PM, Sunday afternoon @ 2 PM. Come out the Kohl Center w/ the Men’s team in Duluth and see some great hockey, well at least out of the Badgers. No Packers excuse either, they’ll have already beat the Falcons on Saturday.

Skate w/ the Badgers follows sunday's women's game.  The Women skate first at 4:45 and the Men follow at 5:30.  Updated those, thanks to the anon for the correction.

Photo from USA Hockey