In Perfect Harmony They say defense wins championships, but this year, Spencer Knight and Alex Newhook proved it's all about finding a balance.

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roper balance requires the cooperation of opposing forces. Think yin and yang—two near-complete opposites, pulling in different directions, yet one is not complete without the other. 

Alex Newhook and Spencer Knight are Boston College men’s hockey’s yin and yang. 

Knight, the level-headed rock in goal, is a calming presence on the ice. Newhook, on the other hand, is a firecracker ready to shoot off at any moment and set his team off with him.

With Knight between the pipes and Newhook attacking up top, the Eagles rocketed to their best season since 2015-16, the year they made it to their 25th-ever Frozen Four. Take the long-standing senior leadership of the class of 2020 and combine it with the influx of fresh talent, and you’ve got a recipe for the storybook year that was the 2019-20 season.

From where Knight stands, the best offense is a great defense, but for Newhook, the opposite is true. Luckily for both of them—and for the rest of Jerry York’s squad—the two found that in each other. With the National Rookie of the Year and a Mike Richter Award finalist on the roster of the Hockey East regular season champion Eagles, it only makes sense that The Heights’ Male Athlete of the Year goes to both members of the freshman duo that was at the center of the action. 

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aving Knight in goal is almost like having no goal at all. The Darien, Conn. native posted such a high save percentage—.931, the 12th best in the nation—that his teammates never had to worry too much about whether a shot would go in. 

“He definitely makes you feel pretty comfortable,” Newhook said of Knight. “It’s nice to have a guy like that. I’ve never played with a goalie so talented and so respected.”

Though Knight posted double-digit saves in every contest he appeared in this year, it was the biggest games that truly showed just how effective he can be in front of the net. Facing off against Boston University with the Hockey East regular-season championship on the line, Knight put up 30 saves en route to a 4-1 win. 

“You know, if you try to pick the reason why we walked out of there with the W, it was his play that night,” head coach Jerry York said looking back on the BU game. “It was really spectacular that night.”

And though a 30-save performance is impressive, it was nowhere near his best. In just the second game of the season, Knight posted 39 saves and a shutout at Colgate. Two games later, he stopped 31 pucks in a tight loss to then-No. 1 Denver. And as BC wrapped up its regular season looking to extend an eight-game unbeaten streak and end the season on a high note, Knight faced his toughest test yet. 

In a deadlocked overtime contest at New Hampshire, the freshman sensation produced his highest save total of the year, finally besting the 39-save mark that he had set at the beginning of the year. His 47-save performance was enough to earn BC a 3-3 tie and go out on a nine-game unbeaten streak. 

“He really influenced the outcome of the games,” York said of Knight’s performance all year long. “We’d make a mistake which was going to cost us the game, and he’d come up and make a save off that. If it was a two-on-one or a breakaway, he’s done that repeatedly this year.”

His efficiency in goal earned him a coveted spot in the final five of the Mike Richter award, honoring the best collegiate goaltender in the country. But just as York described him as “selfless,” that award is not what Knight was after. 

“For me, coming into the year, I didn’t really think about that as an award I wanted to win,” he said. “It’s more about Beanpots, more National Championships. But at the end of the year when they came up with the nominees, it really allows you to reflect on the season.”

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night was on track for a standout freshman season from the very beginning, since his name has been floating around the college and professional atmospheres for a while now. After committing to BC before he was even in high school, Knight garnered enough attention for a 13th-overall NHL Draft selection, making him just the 10th American goaltender ever drafted in the first round and the first selected in the top-15 picks since 2010.

He played just one season of “typical” high school hockey for Avon Old Farms before heading to USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program in 2017.

There, he played alongside some of his future college teammates: Matt Boldy, Drew Helleson, and Marshall Warren were among the bunch. While balancing time zone changes and all the challenges that come with finishing high school, Knight posted a 2.40 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage in international competition.

But no matter where he is or who he’s playing, Knight has one goal in mind. 

“Whether I’m playing an exhibition game in the beginning of the year or playing for a national championship, it’s the same routine, same focus and motivation,” Knight said. “I feel like every time I step on the ice, there’s a chance to get better and improve from where you were or the day before.”

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ith Knight holding down the fort on the defensive end, that leaves Newhook to take care of business on the other end of the ice. But if he’s going to score, he’s going to do it in his trademark way: dangle, snipe, celly. But most importantly, celly. 

With each passing tally in Newhook’s goal column, he’s sure to fire up the crowd and his team with his creative celebrations, rotating between the classics—the single-leg slide, the bow and arrow, the fist pump with one knee up—and the more simplistic ones, such as forming group hugs or simply jumping into the boards. 

His celebrations are merely a reflection of the type of energy that Newhook brings to the locker room.

“I’ve never seen someone so motivated and hyped up to play every game,” said Knight of his teammate with a laugh. “It’s pretty fun—it’s almost like a show before the game and kind of wears off on everyone else and makes everyone more excited to come to the rink.”

And with a season like Newhook’s, there’s plenty to celebrate about. Known for his “speed on the ice,” as York put it, Newhook has the remarkable ability to seemingly be in two places at once. One second, he’s at the blue line, and the next, he’s dangling the puck under the goalie’s nose on the opposite end of the ice. 

“His enthusiasm, his excitement to play the game, to compete is remarkable,” said York. “Other players feed off of that.”

“His enthusiasm, his excitement to play the game, to compete is remarkable. Other players feed off of that.” Jerry York

Newhook showed he can create offensive opportunities from anywhere on the ice, whether he’s scoring himself or setting up a teammate. And his prolific attack was nothing to sneeze at. Boasting the highest goal tally of all Division I rookies with 19, Newhook was a ferocious competitor all year long. He strung together 23 assists, giving him 42 points, tied with Julius Mattila for the most on the team. 

Colin White was the last BC rookie to tally more than 40 points in a single season, which he did in 2016, and Newhook was just the 12th player under the age of 20 in the last decade to hit that mark. 

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native of St. John’s, Newfoundland, Newhook has spent most of his hockey career in Canada. After playing two seasons for St. Andrew’s College, an elite prep school in Ontario, he made his way to the British Columbia Hockey League, where he played for Victoria. 

Pretty soon, he started to gain national and international attention, as he led the BCHL in points during the 2018-19 season, and he eventually earned a spot on Team Canada for the IIHF Under-18 World Championships.

With a 2016 commitment to BC under his belt, Newhook was drafted 16th overall by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2019 NHL Draft and decided to hone his skills in Chestnut Hill before heading to the big leagues. 

The move to BC paid off for him, as he racked up accolade after accolade in his first year on the Heights. He was recognized as a Hockey East Second-Team All Star and was a unanimous selection to the All-Rookie Team before being named Hockey East Rookie of the Year. And as if that wasn’t enough, Newhook later earned the Tim Taylor Award for National Rookie of the Year. 

“Freshman year coming in, the hopes are definitely just to do as much as I can to help our team,” Newhook said. “So for our freshman class to come in and be as much of an impact as we were … it’s definitely an honor. I couldn’t have done it without my teammates.”

“Knigther” and “Newy,” as they call each other, have each confirmed that their time on the Heights isn’t up yet. Though they each have NHL contracts awaiting them, the duo is set to return to the collegiate stage for at least one more year. And with the unfinished business that this season left in the balance, the decision to stick around seems like a no-brainer.

“It was the team, the coaching staff, and just Boston College in general,” Knight said about his decision to return to BC. “I just knew if I left after one year, I feel like I’d be cutting myself short—I’d have regret.”

And with his freshman year left on a cliffhanger, he said he feels like he has to experience at least one Marathon Monday before he heads to the NHL. 

But even the abrupt end to the 2019-20 season won’t be enough to faze Newhook and Knight. As two of the top freshman prospects in the country, these two have plenty of room to grow. 

“Wherever the players come from, it’s always a step up,” York said of the transition to college hockey. “You’ve got to be patient as a coach. We knew they were both outstanding players—it was just a matter of getting their feet wet.”

Well, their feet are wet all right, and it’s only a matter of time before Knight and Newhook return to Kelley Rink with a fire in their eyes stoked by the loss of a postseason. 

Images by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor, Jess Rivilis / Heights Editor, Celine Lim / Heights Senior Staff, and BC Athletics

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About Emma Healy