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At her 14th worlds, Hilary Knight has more records to break and more to give to her team

Last April was a defining month in Hilary Knight’s national team career, arguably already the greatest career in U.S. hockey history.

It began with Knight being named captain for the first time at a major tournament — the 2023 World Championship.

That tournament ended with Knight scoring a hat trick — the first by an American man or woman in an Olympic or world championship final — as the U.S. beat Canada in Canada after losing finals at worlds in 2021 and 2022 and the Olympics in 2022.

“I don’t know if it was necessarily my best individual performance,” Knight said last week, “but it’s definitely up there.”

The IIHF Women’s Ice Hockey World Championship schedule and results for the April 3-14 tournament in Utica, New York.

Knight leads the U.S. into another world championship that starts Wednesday in Utica, New York.

It’s the first major tournament to be held in the U.S. since the 2017 Worlds that the American players were prepared to boycott in a fight for gender equity up until reaching a deal with USA Hockey three days before the event began.

The U.S. then won those worlds, and a year later won its first Olympic title in 20 years.

This year, many of the world’s top players are in the middle of the first season of the Professional Women’s Hockey League.

Asked how that changed preparation for worlds, Knight noted that last week she went from playing a club game on a Monday to the start of a national team evaluation camp to determine the world team on a Wednesday.

“You really have to bite off one piece at a time,” she said. “Otherwise, it’s extremely overwhelming. But, in the same breath, now we have programming, so we’re in game shape and all these other things, which is awesome.”

At last year’s worlds, Knight played without longtime linemates Brianna Decker (retired) and Kendall Coyne Schofield (pregnancy leave; back this year from childbirth).

Knight believes it was the first time she had neither on her line at a major tournament since at least 2015.

Knight still led the 2023 Worlds with eight goals and received two pucks in the post-gold-medal-game celebration: one for the unprecedented hat trick and the other for becoming the first player to score 100 career points in world championship play.

John Wroblewski, who took over as head coach after the 2022 Olympics, called Knight “the heart of the team” in his locker room speech.

“What I learned about Hilary is that, number one, how humble she is, especially in comparison to the accolades that she has,” Wroblewski said last week.

In Wednesday’s opener against Switzerland, Knight will become at age 34 the oldest American woman to play at a worlds.

She will break the age record of the most famous pioneer of U.S. women’s hockey, Cammi Granato, whose number, 21, is tattooed on Knight’s arm.

The tournament runs through April 14, a day that Knight can break her tie with Canadian legend Hayley Wickenheiser for the most career world medals (currently 13).

Both Granato and Wickenheiser are in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Knight, with four Olympic medals, appears headed there one day.

But she’s not done authoring defining moments on the ice. Asked if she’s committed to a run for a fifth Olympics in 2026, Knight didn’t give a definite yes, but did say it “would be special.”

“You have to love this, so if I still love what I do, and as long as I can continue to contribute both on and off the ice to our squad, game on,” she said.

Hilary Knight and the U.S. women’s hockey team look to repeat as world champions.