Spencer Knight doesn’t really need an introduction at Boston College. Only a year and a half into his college career, Knight has already solidified himself as one of the many elite goaltenders that walk through the halls of Conte Forum.
After being drafted by the Florida Panthers, who took him 13th overall in the 2019 NHL Draft, Knight had a stellar freshman year, wrapping up the season as a Top 5 Mike Richter Award finalist. He continues to shine this year, boasting a .945 save percentage in nine games played at BC. Knight has made less than 30 saves only once this year. He also backstopped Team USA to a gold medal at the World Junior Championships this winter, adding more accolades to his young career.
We sat down with Spencer (virtually, obviously!) earlier this week to discuss BC, being a goalie, and World Juniors, and more!
So, to start: why did you choose Boston College?
Knight: So I was fairly young when I decided that I wanted to go here but I remember coming to college hockey games — I think BC played Michigan, [and] I came to a BU game once at BC. I got to campus and I only went to the rink [but] I remember just being in the rink and the atmosphere was just electric. The team was really good and obviously the coaching staff is exceptional too so I think that initially drew me to coming here. And then after a while I just talked to people that went there before, even just regular kids who weren’t even athletes — they all talked about how much fun they had here, outside of academics and sports they said that just being here was a pleasant place to be. And after being here for about a year now it’s been exactly that. It’s been extremely pleasant and the people here are awesome, campus is great and a ton of fun.
BC has a history of some pretty stellar goalies, is there one in particular that sticks out to you the most, or someone you model your game after?
Knight: When I started to look here, Thatcher Demko was [the goalie] and then it was Joe Woll. I got to know Thatcher a little bit over the years and obviously on the ice he’s a really good goalie — same with Joe Woll — I remember I got to talk to him a little bit before I got to BC and like everyone else I talked to, he said that he didn’t want to leave when he left; he wanted to stay. I think that kind of just shows you how much people like it here.
In terms of my game, I don’t really say I model my game exactly off of either of them but obviously they do a lot of good things and they do it really well so I do like to pick out a couple of things here & there and just implement it into my game. They’re both great goalies in their own way.
One thing that everyone repeats about you over and over is that you don’t have to make too many scrambling saves that are impressive to the crowd because you’re so steady — how did you develop that and how do you stay calm?
Knight: So right around the time I was a sophomore in high school, I was at Avon Old Farms — I started watching a lot more of Carey Price and he was obviously dominating in the NHL and his whole style was based on being calm and mentally sound. It was just something I really clicked with — I was like, wow that seems like a really smart way to play; it’s really efficient, it’s easy so I just started to try and model my game off of that a little bit. I just kept building off it and eventually I just got to the point where I had developed my own style.
And yeah a lot of the saves I make don’t look so flashy like you said, but to me those are the best saves. The people in the stands aren’t always going to catch the saves that I think are great, they’re all looking for the saves where I’m down and out and jumping across the crease or whatever it is. And honestly after I make those kinds of saves, I’m usually upset or mad — I’m like what the heck was I doing? It’s kind of interesting how you can see the public perspective and your own perspective.
You’ve talked about this before, but a little refresher — what’s the significance of Squidward on your masks?
Knight: It’s pretty interesting, because it’s actually not as significant as a lot of people think. When I was really young one of my coaches called me Squidward just once — it was almost nothing but I was thinking about things to put on my helmet and I was like ‘well I have my team logo, all the standard stuff, I have to find something different and unique’ so I chose Squidward and it kind of just stuck. It’s something that’s just part of my helmet now, I’ve started to kind of hide him in different areas of my helmet now. I love designing my helmets with my painter Dave Art — Dave Gunnarsson in Sweden — and he does a fantastic job. [Squidward’s] funny but it’s not as significant as people think.
Goalies have a reputation for being the most superstitious — do you have any special superstitions?
Knight: Yeah, there are a few that I have, there are certain things I’ll do at a certain time. But for the past three to four years I’ve tried to get rid of superstitions and make it more routine-based. Now if I find myself doing something superstitious I try to work to break that habit purposely just to prove to myself that I don’t need those superstitions. I do have a routine, like what I eat is usually the same, what time I do something during the day is usually the same.
Goalies are superstitious, people think that they need to do certain things — honestly it’s not a bad thing but I found that a lot of superstitions were getting in the way of me enjoying myself on the ice. It’s so much work sometimes to do them, I was like this is too much. So I basically just broke it down to a routine.
What has it been like to play without fans this season? Is it super noticeable or is it like, when you’re on the ice you just have never really noticed?
Knight: At first you notice it a little bit but when you’re playing you kind of just forget about it. We kind of just practice in an empty rink every day right? So it’s kind of like that, but it’s [still] a little different — having a crowd there can impact the game, when you have a big crowd it makes it more electric in the building and all that good stuff. Everyone on our team misses having tons of fans packed in Conte every Friday & Saturday but hopefully we get to do that soon because I do miss that. [But] you get used to it I think. We’ve just learned to deal with it and kind of forget about it when the puck drops.
So now I’ve got some World Juniors questions — first of all, congratulations on the gold medal!
I know the IIHF had mandated a lockdown-style quarantine period for everyone arriving in Edmonton — is there anything fun you did to spend the time before you were able to leave your hotel room?
Knight: Well, when I was in the hotel room in Edmonton I used to wake up and I would do my workout right away in the morning. I’d do that, and then have breakfast. In the beginning I had some schoolwork so that was actually a great time to do it — we were actually in the middle of finals so it was perfect. It actually wasn’t that bad, and I’d kill some time. Then I would talk to a lot of friends — friends from back home — and then after that it was just relaxing. I’d do a stretch later in the day and we had Zoom calls in the evening which also killed a bunch of time. Other than that was just relaxing, watching TV and Netflix, talking to friends and that’s pretty much it. It was kind of a nice break before everything started.
Did you watch anything fun?
Knight: I watched a little bit of Homeland, finished that up. I started the show Schitt’s Creek which was good — just a funny one that I liked to watch. I also liked the show Billions.
(author’s note: Yes Schitt’s Creek is SO good!!)
What was the bubble like?
Knight: It was definitely unique. We didn’t really go outside much, so we kind of just ate and played hockey. Once the tournament started and you’re in the midst of it, you’re doing so much with hockey — when you’re not playing hockey you’re just getting ready to play hockey whether it’s doing stretches, eating, or resting. And when you’re not doing any of that you’re kind of just relaxing and trying to get away. So once the tournament started it wasn’t much different than the previous World Juniors, to be honest, besides going out to eat at a restaurant once or twice [last year]. I had a lot of fun, like we had a ping pong table so we were playing that pretty much every day.
Do you prepare for World Juniors games differently than college games, or is it kind of the same?
Knight: It was the same. I’m a big believer in not having those big game preparations. My routine’s the same, my thought process is the same, and I’ve kind of learned to manage pressure pretty well and keep it pretty much the same [whether] I’m playing a Tuesday night game in the middle of December or playing the gold medal game in World Juniors. There might be more hype behind the game but other than that nothing else.
I guess one different thing I did was I deleted all my social media during the time at World Juniors. I remember my first World Juniors in 2019 — I was there, but I wasn’t playing because I was the third goalie and I just remember seeing how much of it was on YouTube, on TV and everywhere you went. People were texting you and it was honestly too much. It overwhelmed me and I wasn’t even playing! So my next World Juniors, which was last year, I just deleted it all — people I hadn’t talked to in like 5 years would text me or Snapchat me and I’m just glad I didn’t have to read them — like, I’m trying to prepare for a game and that’s the last thing I want to think about.
So after that first game against Russia — we don’t need to go into detail about it, we all know what happened — how did you prepare to bounce back and what was going through your head?
Knight: [Laughs] Yeah, the first game obviously didn’t go the way we wanted it to but I thought it was great for me [laughs]. People always get so uptight or in their head when they lose or have a bad game. I honestly thought it was great because it allows you to learn so much about yourself and about your game and areas that you need to work on or different ways to approach the game.
So for me I thought: I played bad, and it’s happened before but honestly it’s probably the best time to have it happen - the first game. If that had happened in the second, third, fourth game… [Anyway,] I didn’t play the next game because it was a back to back and the game after that I played and I remember going into it being like ah, this is tough — when you lose and don’t play well, everything seems a lot harder, but when you win, everything seems easy. I honestly looked at it as one of those things like it can’t really get worse from here! Just go out there and have fun, and whatever happens happens.
It was nice also because a lot of people stopped having expectations and I didn’t see [that] but I know they did. It was nice to just go out and play and to not have to worry about outside stuff.
What was it like finding out that you guys were going to play Canada for gold?
Knight: Yeah, it was pretty cool! My favorite World Juniors memory in my lifetime was in 2017, the shootout win. That’s what I picture World Juniors as: being in Canada, playing against Canada in the gold medal game. Canada always has a stacked roster and this year they were unbelievable; so many great players. It’s really cool to see a lot of those guys making their NHL debuts now and knowing you got to play against those guys before they got to the NHL. It’s cool.
Can you describe what it was like in the last moments of the gold medal game, waiting for the clock to wind down? What was going through your mind?
Knight: Yeah, I don’t really look at the clock that much throughout the game. I don’t know, I think it’s too distracting. And especially with Canada too, it’s one of those things where they were so skilled and so talented that — they could score two goals in twenty seconds if they really wanted to.
It was one of those things where I was going into the game like: I don’t care what time it is, how many ever goals we’re up or down by, [we] just gotta keep going. I don’t care whether there’s ten seconds left. Just wait until the end. And I remember it was a six on five towards the end and we got the puck out with like 13 seconds or ten seconds left or something and that’s when I looked up at the clock and was like wow, this is really going to happen.
How special was it to have two of your BC teammates on that USA team with you, and get to celebrate that huge win together?
Knight: Yeah it was awesome having those guys — Bolds and Helly — just being able to be with them was great. It’s cool to bring it back with those people and share that experience with them. We’re all proud to be Boston College Eagles and to represent our school on the international stages.
And on the other hand, what was it like playing against Alex Newhook?
Knight: It was weird. It’s always weird playing against your teammates. He’s obviously a tremendous player and I play against him in practice every day and he’s definitely a hard guy to stop but I mean it’s cool looking back on it. We’ll all cherish that memory in different ways.
What was the flight back to BC like — was there chirping going on, or were you guys happy to be teammates again?
Knight: No no, we moved past it pretty quick. He texted us after the game and I sent him a text individually too. In 2019 I remember us losing in the gold medal game to Finland, and I wasn’t even playing and I was like ‘wow this sucks’ so I’m like I can’t even imagine how he feels. I know it’s something that is a delicate subject so I told him I won’t bring it up with him ever really and we’ll move past it and look forward to playing BC hockey.
How was the adjustment from BC to World Juniors, then back to BC again given all the pandemic protocols and stuff?
Knight: It was actually pretty solid, pretty easy. Our team trainer [and team manager] did a great job organizing everything and keeping everyone safe, making it go as smoothly as possible.
Last World Juniors question — was it a barrel or trash can?
Knight: It was a barrel! I think anyone that was not in our locker room is probably going to see it in a different way than we did. Our team rallied behind having a barrel and the story that was told to us about the barrels in the Sahara desert. So we rallied behind it, we brought that barrel with us and people were lifting it up, dancing around it, taking selfies with it after every game. We have a selfie with every team logo we beat throughout the tournament start to finish. If anyone thinks we were trying to mock anyone, we weren’t.
I think the media kind of perceived it in the wrong way because we took like thousands of team photos with that on separate occasions and that was our third separate team photo about twenty minutes after [the win] so we thought we could have our own little thing and be ourselves but obviously the media had to watch everything and be quick to jump the gun and perceive it the wrong way.
There was no disrespect to Canada at all — that was probably the most talented team I’ve ever seen in my life and watching them on TV was just ridiculous, they were obviously unbelievable.
So circling back to this part of the season, Hockey East has had a lot of schedule changes this season and has recently moved to a week-by-week schedule. How has that affected how you prepare, particularly as a goalie?
Knight: I just take it day by day. I don’t look past... today, really, like my next big thing is ‘what am I going to eat for dinner tonight?’. So I’m kind of just like — you know what I’ll take it day by day and if we have a game — great, I’ll be there and I’ll show up on time and be ready to play. That’s kind of how I’m looking at it especially with everything going on.
Now that you guys have gotten some games in after getting back from the tournament, what’s your focus going into these last six or seven weeks of the season?
Knight: I think a lot of guys are just looking forward to the second half — obviously it’s a very intense time of year. Obviously a lot of fun. I think the guys are looking forward to that fun and that excitement that usually comes in the second half. A lot of people are looking at that, I think a lot of people are just worried about the next weekend coming up and what’s important is not getting too far ahead of ourselves and just focusing on what you have that day. I think a lot of teams have been doing a good job with that and we’re having a lot of fun doing that too.
Okay, so now time for some fun questions!
Are you a coffee or a tea person?
Knight: I don’t drink coffee, I haven’t started. I usually just drink water in the morning. I have tea sometimes at night every once in a while, but I definitely haven’t started drinking coffee yet.
What’s something that BC fans might be surprised to know about you? This one’s a little hard.
Knight: Yeah, this one is hard, I’m not that interesting of a person to be honest with you. Uh, I can juggle, but a lot of hockey goalies can juggle. Other than that I’m a pretty easy going guy. I hang out with my friends, I play golf, I like to fish.
I think the golfing thing is probably not something people would be surprised about!
Knight: That too, a lot of hockey players do also golf. Stereotypical hockey player, I guess! [Laughs]
There was a feature in The Athletic about you last year, and it mentioned that you like Sweetgreen — so I’m curious, what’s your go-to Sweetgreen order?
Knight: I actually just got some too! I’m kind of upset — so I used to get Sweetgreen but I also had Tender Greens. Tender Greens closed down and it was the best place ever, our whole team would go there the night before a game or whatever. I probably ate there 6-7 times a week. I am so upset they closed, I tried to email them or find any way to contact them. If they ever open again I know a lot of people on our team would go. (author’s note: Tender Greens, whenever you’re open, you know the first person to contact.)
Anyway my Sweetgreen go-to order is probably — I do the Harvest Bowl, I add avocado and use quinoa instead of rice.
(author’s note: the Harvest Bowl is SO good. This is not an ad, it’s just very good.)
Do you have a favorite TikTok trend, and if so what is it?
Knight: [Laughs] I actually don’t have TikTok, believe it or not. It’s obviously really funny but I would just get too addicted to it if I had it so I’m trying to stay away.
(author’s note: Very valid, it’s extremely addictive! I then mentioned this TikTok that featured Knight himself, getting tripped by his BC & USA teammate Drew Helleson during pregame warmups, set to the ‘oh no’ music. Knight mentioned he would try to find someone to send him this video so he could watch it. Here it is for all of you!)
That’s some Eagle on Eagle crime pregame at #WorldJuniors @bardown♬ original sound - Boston College
And lastly, favorite dining hall meal?
Knight: Does Eagles Nest count as a dining hall? (Yes) I do the Eagles Nest bowls — those are unbelievable, I get the quinoa, kale, broccoli, guac, chicken, Thai peanut dressing and it’s so good. I eat that for lunch a lot.
A huge, huge, thank you to Spencer for taking some time out of his day to sit down and chat with us!