MADISON, Wis. — One weekend was all Hilary Knight needed to show the college hockey world that she is ready to dominate play this season.
Following a one goal performance Friday against Rensselaer, Knight was unstoppable Saturday night, figuring in Wisconsin’s first five goals as the Badgers coasted to a 6-0 victory at the Kohl Center.
“(Hilary) was the best player on the ice tonight,” Badgers coach Mark Johnson said. “It didn’t matter where she was playing; she had the jump and I think everyone here got to see that she is a special player.”
Only 33 seconds in, Knight opened the scoring on a brilliant solo effort. The junior forward changed speeds as she crossed the left side of the blue line, then cut across the middle of the ice before unleashing a blast in off the left goal post. It was just Wisconsin’s second shot of the game.
“I think we caught them off guard,” Knight said. “Luckily (my shot) hit the post and went in, but we have a great forecheck, and the goal was a result of that pressure.”
A little over seven minutes later, Knight struck again, but this time with help from sophomore defenseman Saige Pacholok. Racing in on a two-on-one rush, Pacholok faked a shot on RPI senior goaltender Sonja van der Bliek, then fed Knight in the slot. With an empty net staring her in the face, Knight made the gimmie for a 2-0 Badgers lead.
Later in the first, RPI battled back, getting a two-on-one opportunity of its own and a couple of chances on the power play, but Wisconsin freshman netminder Alex Rigsby stopped all six shots in her first collegiate period of play. Rigsby eventually finished the night spotless while making ten saves.
“It was nice to get my first game out of the way,” Rigsby said. “And it feels great for it to be a shutout.”
Eight minutes into the second period, Knight had a glorious chance for the hat trick, but couldn’t get hold of a loose puck in front of a gaping net. However, she would make up for it by setting up the Badgers third goal.
Cutting into traffic in the middle of the ice, Knight snapped a shot toward van der Bliek. However, the puck caromed off an Engineers defender and right to senior forward Mallory Deluce, who cashed in on the empty net.
Just 15 seconds later, Knight rang another chance off the crossbar, but more Wisconsin pressure resulted in a power play opportunity and the Badgers fourth goal.
Late in the advantage Knight, who was skating up high in the offensive zone, tried to make a pass across to the point. Again the puck again deflected to a wide open Badger, this time to sophomore forward Brianna Decker, who ripped a shot into the upper left corner to make it 4-0.
“Some games you have it, some nights you don’t, and fortunately for us, we had (some luck) today,” Knight said. “Whether it was a lucky bounce which goes in or an (errant) pass that ends up turning into a goal, that was us tonight. But our hard work helped make those breaks.”
Knight was again involved on Wisconsin’s fifth goal early in the third period. This time, Knight got position in front of net, taking away van der Bliek’s eyes. Pacholok took full advantage by firing home a low shot to the far side. Knight assisted on the tally, giving the junior five points on the night.
“Knight and (Meghan) Duggan took charge of both games early on,” RPI coach John Burke said. “Those are two special players (and I am glad) we only had to face them two times this year.”
Badgers sophomore forward Breann Frykas finished off the scoring, picking up a rebound off freshman forward Brittany Ammerman’s initial shot.
Next weekend, the Engineers return home looking for their first win of season against Vermont.
“Sometimes you have to give credit to the other team, and Wisconsin came out of the gates strong,” Burke said. “But we did a lot of good little things and there’s plenty of stuff here that we can build on from this weekend.”
Meanwhile, Wisconsin continues their opening homestand next weekend, starting WCHA league play against Bemidji State.