Hilary Knight’s hat trick leads to gold, USA tops Canada 6-3

For all the focus on America’s young and restructured roster, who else but Hilary Knight — the team’s most experienced and accomplished star — is securing her country’s 10th Women’s Played a key role in the World Hockey Championship gold medal and a quarter of the year.

The 33-year-old Knight scored three goals, including one with 3:10 left in the regular season in a 6-3 win over Canada and Sunday’s home win against a cross-border rival in suburban Toronto.

Apologizing for her voice being hoarse from the celebration, which featured Americans singing the rousing “Star-Spangled Banner,” Knight said with a laugh: “Yeah, it’s been a while.”

The U.S. overcame the sting of a three-goal deficit and losing the past three gold-medal meetings against Canada — the past two World Championships and the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics — to regain for the first time since a 2-1 penalty shootout victory over Canada. Gold Medal 2019 for Finland.

“It’s hard to beat Canada. It’s hard to beat Canada in Canada, right? So we definitely feel like losers,” Knight added. “People were always against us but somehow we persevered and it was even sweeter that way.”

Caroline Harvey had a goal and an assist, while Abbey Murphy and Cayla Barnes also had empty nets. The Americans scored four unanswered goals in the third quarter. Aerin Frankel stopped 24 shots.

The US team had five players making their tournament debuts and Knight scored twice in 27 seconds to take advantage of the two to tie the game at three.

Brianne Jenner was sent off for a trip, Claire Thompson was sent off at 1:11 for a delay and Knight scored from the middle to beat Ann-Renee Desbiens on the glove side. Knight made it 5-3 after Harvey’s shot was deflected to the left. For her first goal, Knight converted a 2-on-1 break with Amanda Kessel into the second period to tie the score at 8:30.

Jenner scored twice and assisted one, and Marie-Philippe Pullin added a goal and assisted one for Canada, who won their ninth silver medal and added 12 golds and a bronze. Desbiens lost her first tournament in 17 career starts and was suspended 16 times.

“I think we’re kind of unbelievable right now. It’s not that we don’t know a great hockey team, but we totally believe in our team,” Jenner said.

“I think there were a lot of moments in that fight. You know, I think it’s easy to put the blame elsewhere. But I think we have to look at ourselves,” Jenner added. “I mean we have to find a way to keep those leads.”

The U.S. hasn’t beaten Canada in a tie since the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. Additionally, Canada and the United States meet in the other 21 gold-medal games at the World Championships.

“They’ve definitely had our number for a few years, so this one feels a little bit special,” Kessel said. “I’ve been on the other side of it, you just win, win, win. You kind of know their numbers, it’s a confidence thing. So I think it means a lot to us.”

The US team led the tournament with 43 goals and bounced back from a 4-3 penalty shootout loss to Canada in the preliminary round. They beat an experienced Canadian team with most of the players who have been together since Beijing won the title.

“The message was very clear. There’s not much you can say in those situations that can make them feel better,” Canada coach Troy Ryan said. “I think they’re going to learn from that experience and grow as a unit.”

Knight scored a tournament-leading eight goals and is tied for third with 12 points. Overall, she raised her career goal total to 61, while also extending her scoring record to 101. Knight also won her ninth Championship gold medal, tying the record set by Canadian Danielle Goyette.

Knight also took the win after Kendall Coins Schofield announced she was pregnant last month.

“Obviously without Kendall here, we feel like it’s kind of like a hole in your heart,” said Knight, who had trouble getting to Schofield because of poor cell phone service at the arena.

“She’s definitely missed,” Knight said. “We’re so happy we got this win. We can’t wait for her to come back and join us.”

After Canada scored, the Americans responded every time, with Harvey tying it at 3 at 5:40 of the third quarter. The 20-year-old guard held the puck to his left, took a few steps forward, and beat Des Biens with a glove-side shot.

Xavi enjoyed a breakthrough game as he finished with four goals and a Championship-leading 14 points. It’s been a phenomenal year for the 20-year-old, who celebrated winning an NCAA title as a freshman at UW last month.

Denisa Krizova scored twice, including the go-ahead goal, and provided an assist as the Czech Republic beat Switzerland 3-2 in a replay of last year’s third-place match for their second consecutive bronze medal.

Kiira Yrjanen’s goal at 6:48 of the second period sent Finland back into Group A at next year’s World Championships after a 3-1 win over Sweden on Sunday. The Finn, who won 13 medals and one silver in 2019, bounced back from a tournament-worst seventh place finish in Denmark last year.

—John Warrow, Associated Press


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