While the U.S. remains focused on winning a sixth straight gold, there was a touch of magic and nostalgia.
"Kendall Coyne and I went to Cammi's hockey camp back in Chicago, many, many years ago," Knight recalled. "She just exudes greatness. To be around that level of talent both on and off the ice is incredible."
Knight's record-setting marker came at 3:17 of the second period, giving coach Joel Johnson’s team a 2-0 lead. The towering 32-year-old forward got the puck at the top of the left faceoff circle, cut into the slot past three Russian defenders, and scored high to the glove side.
Fittingly, long-time linemate Brianna Decker earned the assist on the play. Decker is now the all-time U.S. assists leader (39 assists), moving past Krissy Wendell and Jenny Potter.
"When Decks has the puck, you just got to get open," said Knight. "She's on the half wall. Just coming in there, I was able to find some space and put the puck in the back of the net. I was shooting on that goalie in the same spot a couple times, and I missed and just wanted to make sure I got it this time."
"I've had the privilege and honour of playing with Hillary and Kendall 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! What I admired about Potter and Krissy, their games, was how strong they were on the puck, because that creates a lot of time and space for other players."
Versus the ROC team, Lee Stecklein and Kelly Pannek also stepped up with a goal and an assist apiece, and Grace Zumwinkle and Megan Keller had two assists apiece.
After opening these Women's Worlds with 3-0 wins over Switzerland and Finland, the U.S. extended its shutout streak to three games. It's the third time they've started this tournament that way (2001, 2009). Shots favoured the defending champs 55-11.
Both nations now face crucial matches for Group A seeding. Coach Yevgeni Bobariko's women take on the Finns on Wednesday, while the U.S. renews its classic cross-border rivalry with Canada on Thursday.
"When we have this border battle with Canada, it's a great game to be a part of," Knight said. "It really gets your blood flowing, and it's something that a lot of us live for."
With superior speed, skill, and physical power, the U.S. has thoroughly dominated Russian opposition in Women’s Worlds play. It now boasts a record of 16 wins and zero losses with a goal difference of 144-8. The Americans have outscored the Russians 48-0 in their last six meetings and have not allowed a goal since a 13-1 romp in 2015 in Malmo.
"In the third we just kind of crumbled and let them score three easy goals," said Russian forward Fanuza Kadirova. "If we take that away and try to play evenly and at 100 percent from the first second to the last, we can improve."
For the U.S., the offensive floodgates are now open. Their power play came to life with two conversions against the ROC team after being blanked on 11 previous opportunities.
"The Americans were simply quicker than us," said Bobariko. "We took a lot of penalties and didn't stick to the game plan we devised."
"It's certainly fun to celebrate accomplishments, but none of those are possible without great defensive play," said Johnson. "And that always starts with with our goaltenders. So Alex for two games and Nicole [Hensley] for one have just been outstanding."
Reflecting the U.S.’s great depth, forwards Hayley Scamurra and Abby Roque and defender Jincy Dunne were scratched. Forwards Jesse Compher and Abbey Murphy and defender Caroline Harvey, all of whom played against Switzerland in the opener but were scratched against Finland, drew back into the line-up.
The U.S. mustered intense pressure from the get-go. It was a tough start all around for Bobariko’s team. Assistant captain Anna Shibanova was shaken up in a collision with Murphy and went off, although she would return to action.
Zumwinkle, a rookie who scored in each of her first two Women’s Worlds games, was the catalyst on the 1-0 opening goal at 11:50. She powered from the left corner to the front of the net, getting past blueliner Angelina Goncharenko, and Curl, a fellow rookie, put in the rebound for her first career Women’s Worlds goal.
Growing up, Curl idolized Knight. She has a photo of her holding Knight’s stick when she was 13. She’s still got a ways to go to catch her childhood icon on the all-time goal-scoring list, though.
"We love the energy that the younger talent brings," Knight said. "We had a lot of firsts today, a lot of first goals. And it was really exciting to be on the bench and experience that. Many more to come for those guys!"
In the second period, the ice stayed tilted in America’s favour. After Knight’s history-making 2-0 goal, she stayed dangerous. Near the seven-minute mark, Knight almost added another one, ringing the disc off the post. Moments later, she redirected a feed from captain Kendall Coyne Schofield off Prugova’s left pad.
The rough outing for the Russians continued as top scorer and nine-time World Championship participant Olga Sosina got hit twice inadvertently on one shift and went to the bench in obvious pain.
On the 38th U.S. shot of the game, Stecklein made it 3-0 with a rising wrister from the center point that went in off Prugova’s right shoulder with 2:35 left in the middle frame.
"It's not only about Hilary Knight," Bobariko noted. "Every player on the US team is a very skilled, top-level player. Every player on their team is a danger for the net.
At 2:45 of the third period, Pannek ended the American power play drought when her one-timer from the left faceoff circle handcuffed Prugova.
More power play goodness ensued as Murphy hammered home her first Women's Worlds goal at 6:13. That ended Prugova's outing, as she was replaced by Valeria Merkusheva.
Just 1:40 later, Compher, who was limited to one assist in six games in her 2019 debut, got her first Women's Worlds goal to make it 6-0 on the rebound from a Zumwinkle redirection. The ROC team showed frustration as Nina Pirogova was penalized for a knee-on-knee hit on Coyne Schofield, who fortunately was able to continue.
"We took a lot of bad penalties," said Pirigova. "We need to get rid of mistakes like that."
Knight is now just one point away from equalling the all-time American points record (78 points) held by (who else?) Granato. Stay tuned for more history.