Boston College’s Knight named Hockey East player of year, York top coach, Lopina, Nesterenko share top rookie honors

Boston College goalie Spencer Knight had a spectacular World Junior tournament for the U.S. this past December and January (photo: Chris Tucci).

Hockey East announced Tuesday that Boston College sophomore goaltender Spencer Knight has been awarded the honor of 2020-21 Hockey East player of the year.

In addition, Massachusetts’ Josh Lopina and Boston College’s Nikita Nesterenko have been tabbed co-rookies of the year, while BC’s Jerry York was voted the league’s best coach for the fifth time in his career.

Knight becomes the first Boston College netminder to win the league’s top individual award outright after Thatcher Demko shared the honors in 2015-16. During the Hockey East regular season, Knight led the league with 15 wins, five more than any other goalie, and a 15-2-1 record. His .937 save percentage was tied for tops in Hockey East and was third-best in the NCAA while he carried a 1.99 GAA, which was second-best among all league backstops.

The 13th overall selection of the Florida Panthers in the 2019 NHL Draft stopped all 34 shots he faced in the 2021 World Junior gold medal game, marking the first shutout in the championship game of the tournament since 2012. The shutout also marked the first shutout by a USA team in the World Junior Championship medal round and gave Knight sole ownership of the most career shutouts for a Team USA netminder in the tournament.

Lopina is the first Massachusetts player to be named top rookie. The first-year center won more faceoffs than any other rookie in the NCAA during the 2020-21 regular season, claiming victory at the dot 244 times. His seven goals tied for the most among his league classmates and included more power-play strikes than any other conference first-year player.

Nesterenko led all Hockey East freshmen in goals (7), assists (11), points (18), points per game (0.86), and short-handed goals (1) during the regular season. He posted a plus-14 on-ice rating during the regular season, finishing seventh among all skaters in the conference. His 18 points were the 14th-highest total in Hockey East while is 0.86 points per game finished 10th among all national first-year players in the NCAA during the regular season.

York led the Eagles to a 16-4-1 record and the top seed in the Hockey East tournament for the 10th time during his tenure. York’s offense scored 3.90 goals per game, the second highest total in the NCAA during the regular season, while allowing just 2.19 goals per game, second-best in Hockey East. The Eagles’ penalty kill operated at a rate of 85.8 percent, good for second in the conference and 11th nationally, and scored a national-best eight short-handed goals, nearly double any another team in the country.