Victory Is Theirs: Hilary Knight

Hilary Knight helped the U.S. women's hockey team beat Finland Saturday. Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/MCT

SOCHI, Russia -- It took 53 seconds for Hilary Knight to answer any doubts raised by the last time the U.S. Olympic women's hockey team played Finland. A breakaway goal -- the earliest ever scored in the first game of the tournament -- pierced the steel facade presented by Finnish goaltender Noora Raty and restored confidence to a team on a crusade for gold.

The longtime European power wouldn't have been an opponent to look past in the opener anyway, but that point was hammered home when Raty stopped 58 U.S. shots and keyed a 3-1 upset at the Four Nations Cup last November. The 5-foot-10, 24-year-old Knight, a Sun Valley, Idaho, native and former University of Wisconsin standout, is one of the players the U.S. counts on for firepower, and her quick strike allowed the whole team to exhale for a few seconds. The Americans kept the pressure on in a fast-paced game and won 3-1.

Knight, part of the 2010 silver-medal winning U.S. team, said she feels far more composed in her second Olympics. "In my first one [in Vancouver], I was like a kid in a candy shop wanting to try all the flavors, but now I'm more experienced and that is a big advantage," she said.