Campbell River's Olivia Knowles

Knowles, Team Canada top U.S. in U-18 hockey series

Campbell River standout helps national team to 2-1 series win over rivals in Lake Placid

Campbell River’s Olivia Knowles and her Team Canada U18 women’s teammates outdueled the U.S. in a three-game exhibition series last week at the Olympic Centre in Lake Placid, N.Y.

It was the first action for the newly formed squad following its final selection camp in Calgary earlier this month. The team is in the thick of preparations for the IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship in St. Catharines, Ont., beginning Jan. 8, 2016.

Knowles, a 16-year-old defenseman, assisted on Canada’s first goal in the series opener, a 3-2 victory for Team Canada last Thursday.

Team USA bounced back with a 2-0 shutout win on Friday, but Canada overcame an early 2-0 deficit with five unanswered goals in Sunday’s series finale to take the series, 2-1.

The wins give Team Canada a 16-11 overall lead in the all-time series between the teams, which have met in the gold-medal final in each of the eight previous world championships.

“This is just another step in seeing how players perform under pressure, how they accept roles, how coachable they are and their resilience mentally and physically to come through the selection camp and still perform here,” said Melody Davidson, general manager of national women’s team programs for Hockey Canada.

Knowles, who plays for the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton, is one of 20 new skaters on the national team, which returns just three veterans from last year’s world championships.

“For a lot of our players this is their first time wearing our national jersey,” head coach Lisa Haley said. “I think getting over that mental hurdle of finally feeling like they’ve arrived at the national level is great.

“This series will do two things: it’ll get rid of the nerves a little bit and it’ll also increase the rivalry heading into the world championship.”