Why bother with growing pains when you can just bring the pain instead?
Selected 13th overall by the Florida Panthers in the 2019 NHL Draft, Spencer Knight took the NCAA by storm during his freshman campaign in 2019-20. Starting all but one game for the Eagles, he went 23-8-2 with a 1.97 goals-against average and .931 save percentage.
He also ranked third in the nation with five shutouts, including one in just his second-ever start.
"I've always known I was going to go there for a while," Knight said when asked about Boston College during a recent interview on the Territory Talk podcast. "When I finally got there and put on the jersey it was like, 'Wow, I'm really here.'
"I spent so much time growing up thinking of this moment, playing for BC. When it happened, it hit me that I just have to go out and enjoy this because this is what I've been dreaming of. This is what I've been waiting for."
Even for a storied program like Boston College, Knight proved to be a talent worth waiting for.
Enjoying their best season since 2015-16, the Eagles ranked first in Hockey East with a 24-8-2 record prior to the cancellation of the NCAA season due to the coronavirus. Bolstered by Knight's play in net, they not only exceeded expectations, but also appeared to be a championship contender.
Catching fire as the NCAA Tournament approached, Knight closed out the season on a career-best, nine-game unbeaten streak. During that impressive stretch, the 19-year-old allowed more than two goals on just a single occasion while also turning aside more than 25 shots five times.
In his final game of the season, he made a career-high 47 saves in a 3-3 tie at New Hampshire.
"A really good season from top to bottom," Knight said. "I thought we had a very deep team. From the seniors down to the freshman, everyone was contributing, which was great. It was a great year on the ice. What really drew to that was that everyone was so close.
"The thought in the room was that no one was trying to get their numbers for themselves. We all had a very [win-first] approach to the game. No one cared about what it would take or what they did individually, it was all about the team. When we were playing well, everything was clicking."
When he wasn't lighting it up on campus, Knight also shined overseas. Manning the crease for the United States at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic, he registered a 2-2-0 record with a 2.49 goals-against average and .913 save percentage over four starts and was honored as one of USA's top-three players at the event.
In USA's 1-0 loss to Finland in the quarterfinals on Jan. 2, he stopped 28 of 29 shots.
"It was pretty cool," Knight said of the international experience. "The first time I went to World Juniors was two years ago, and I was the third goalie there. When you're not on the ice or on the bench, you kind of see a different perspective of things. Just watching then I knew for the next year that I wanted to do this. I wanted to be in the net. There's nothing better than that."
When asked about the personal strides he made throughout the season, Knight said he never got too caught up in any one aspect of his game. Every week, he'd write down three things that he wanted to work on -- hugging the posts, skating, etc. -- and then take that into his practices.
Once the week was up, he'd look back at that list and check his progress.
"Once the season comes around I really try not to focus on one specific thing," he said. "I like to go into games not really overthinking what I'm going to do. I want to have a pretty clear head."
That being said, Knight does have somewhat of a singular focus heading into next season.
More than two months removed from his last competitive game, he's has had plenty of time to reflect on both his freshman campaign and the mountain of accolades that came along with it.
In addition to being named a Top-5 finalist for the Mike Richter Award, which is handed out annually to the nation's top goaltender, he also earned a spot on the Hockey East Second All-Star Team and was a unanimous selection to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team.
Throughout the season, he also won a total of six Hockey East weekly awards and was honored as the NCAA's "Rookie of the Month" in November and "Goaltender of the Month" in December.
But, as nice as individual awards are, his sights are set on a national championship in 2020-21.
"Seeing how it just ended and everyone just left and parted ways and didn't have a chance to go on that run, that kind of stuck with me," Knight said. "I think that's the reason why I wanted to come back and want to get back so bad already. Some guys didn't get to live out that end-of-year national championship run. For me, it those kinds of things. Everyone talks about what could have been, but there's nothing we can do about it. It's just going to serve as motivation."