For Katy Knoll there will always be something special about wearing her country’s colors.
There’s no way it could ever get old.
Knoll, a native of Amherst, will experience that thrill once again as, for the second year in a row, she is part of Team USA that will compete in the IIHF Under-18 Women’s World Juniors that begin play in Japan this Sunday.
This year’s tourney will hold even more meaning for Knoll as she was selected as alternate captain who will help captain Dominique Petrie lead the team into battle against the best in the world.
“To be able to wear the red, white and blue is always an honor and never gets old,” Knoll said from her hotel in Japan on Friday.
“And to be able to lead this team in Japan is a great opportunity and I’m looking forward to the tournament beginning.”
Knoll being tabbed to wear the “A” comes as no shock to those who have seen the Nichols School senior play.
Scoring two goals in last year’s gold medal game proved that Knoll is the definition of clutch in big game situations.
“They have experience succeeding at the highest level,” Team USA coach Maura Crowell said of Knoll and Petrie in a press release.
“Most importantly, both of them are respected by their teammates and the staff.”
Respect is the key word when others talk about Knoll. She brings a blend of skill, tenacity and hard work that few, if any, of her peers can match. And she looks at every time she steps on the ice as an opportunity to learn and grow.
“Having the experience of last year really helped me on and off the ice so far and it’s great to be here and get my feet going,” Knoll said.
Reaching for the heights of international hockey has come with the price of sacrifice for Knoll.
Also playing for the Toronto Jr Areos in the Women’s Provincial Hockey League the work load of hockey and school out Katy face to face with the difficult decision to forego her senior year of hockey at Nichols. Even though it was a tough call Knoll is able to put it all in perspective and realize that with great reward there must be great sacrifice.
“Of course it’s difficult to not be playing for my school team my senior season,” Knoll said. “But it’s times like these where I would be missing so much for that team back home right now that I know I made the right decision, and I can focus on the task here at hand in Japan.”
Nichols coach Shelley Looney, who played for Team USA in the 1998 Olympics, said she admired Knoll for the way she handled such a difficult decision. And that ultimately she showed class and maturity by saying she wouldn’t disrespect Nichols hockey or her teammates by giving them anything less than her full commitment.
Shooting for the dream of another gold medal Katy Knoll, who has also signed her National Letter of Intent to play college hockey for DI Northeastern, has some simple advice for those who want to follow their dreams. Always believe in yourself.
“My advice is to keep working because you never know who is watching,” she said. “No matter what team you play on, where you live or when you started playing, anything is possible so keep working hard and be yourself!”
Team USA opens up against Russia on Saturday.