Getting To Know Minnesota Hockey's Incoming Freshman

The Golden Gophers welcome five incoming freshmen to the team in 2017-18, including Olivia Knowles of Campbell River, British Columbia. Knowles joins the Gophers from Okanagan Hockey Academy where she helped the team win the CSSHL Championship last season. A poised blue-liner, she has earned multiple awards, including top defenseman of the CSSHL and the Canadian National Championships.

She has also represented Hockey Canada, including earning silver with Canada's National Women's Under-18 Team at the 2017 and 2016 IIHF Under-18 Women's World Championships.

Knowles joins Emily Brown, Alex Gulstene, Taylor Wente, and Grace Zumwinkle to make up next season's incoming class. The sixth member of the class, Amy Potomak, will delay her arrival to the University of Minnesota while training with Canada's National Women's Team in preparation for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

Gopher Sports: How did you start playing hockey?
Olivia Knowles: I was always at the rink. My brothers and cousins played, and I was athletic from gymnastics. I was strong at a young age, so they decided to put me in hockey. I started skating when I was around eight, and I started to love it after that.

GS: What other sports did you play growing up?
OK: I played almost every sport under the sun. I was a competitive gymnast growing up. I've done soccer, softball, swimming, basketball, volleyball -- everything pretty much.

GS: What do you like to do in your free time?
OK: We play a lot of beach volleyball in Penticton. I'm in a Wallyball league. Mostly sports, I stick to sports. I like to hang out with friends and family, too.

GS: What are you most looking forward to about playing for the Gophers?
OK: I'm really excited for the college hockey atmosphere and playing against some of the best players. I think the WCHA is one of the best leagues there is. I'm just excited for the competition and playing with such a great team.

GS: Do you have any pre-game rituals or superstitions?
OK: I like to watch comedies before games. Wherever we are, in my room, I'll watch comedies to get me in a good mood. I'll be light and focused before the game. What I'm wearing has to match, and I have to feel good in what I'm wearing to the rink.

GS: Who are your hockey role models?
OK: Since I started hockey pretty late, I watched my cousins growing up. They were big inspirations. They've always done well in hockey. As I got older, Micah Hart. She was one of my biggest inspirations on ice, but also off-ice. She's such a great leader and great person. I definitely model my on-ice after her, but more-so my off-ice.

GS: When did you know that playing at the next level was possible for you?
OK: I think it was when I was playing boys' hockey. I played all the way up in boys' hockey until bantams. I had some coaches and parents who believed in me and encouraged me. They knew if I was playing really well at the boys' hockey level, it would be easier to transfer over to girls' hockey and make an impact.

GS: How did it feel to win the league championship with Okanagan Hockey Academy?
OK: It was incredible. After three years of playing for OHA, it's nice to leave a legacy and great mark on players to come. It was just exciting. We had a great group of girls. Nothing stood in our way.

GS: How did it feel to suit up for Canada?
OK: It's indescribable. Putting on the maple leaf is something special, something I've always looked forward to doing. Actually doing it is so much bigger than yourself. It's awesome.

GS: How has it felt to win multiple individual defensive awards in your career already?
OK: It's definitely a huge honor, but I think it's a team effort, too. We have Alex (Gulstene) in goal. She's doing her best, working her hardest. I don't think success can be attributed to one player.