March 26, 2019

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In the U.S., Young Hockey Goalies Are Coming In From the Cold

In the U.S., Young Hockey Goalies Are Coming In From the Cold
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Three years later, the Washington Capitals hired Strelow as the N.H.L.’s first full-time goalie coach, and he went on to work for the Devils and San Jose Sharks before his death in 2007. U.S.A. Hockey’s national team goaltending camp is named for him.

Recent goaltending prospects like Spencer Knight, a goalie for the U.S. national team at the world junior championship that began this week in British Columbia, have benefited from a more specialized path. Raised in Darien, Conn., Knight switched from forward to goalie as an 11-year-old. A fan of Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers, he liked the pressure that came with the position. And he loved the equipment. “I thought the gear was really cool,” he said.

His parents — Chris, a retired Darien police officer, and Lilly, who works in finance — sent him to Pro Crease Goaltending, a goalie school in East Berlin, Conn.

“My parents laid out a lot of money,” he said. “I’m very fortunate my parents were wiling to pay for that and let me fulfill my dream of playing goalie.”

Knight excelled at the All-American Prospects Game in St. Paul in September, stopping 12 of 13 shots and twice foiling Jack Hughes, the likely No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 N.H.L. amateur draft.

Now Knight is bound for Boston College and is a potential first-round draft choice himself.

That is heartening news for USA Hockey, which must also confront another issue as it seeks to bolster the number of good American goalies. And that is the fact that goalie equipment is expensive. A full set of new pads, plus a mask, can cost $500 or more for the youngest players and upward of $2,000 for an adult. USA Hockey is working with equipment manufacturers on that front, too, trying to find cheaper alternatives.

One person who likes this stepped-up emphasis on goalies is Jamie Langenbrunner, a two-time Stanley Cup champion forward who is now the player-development coordinator for the Boston Bruins.

“It’s such a specialized position,” said Langenbrunner, who coached Knight’s team in the Prospects game. “The skill, the teaching of it, is difficult. I’ve been in hockey for a long time and I couldn’t tell you the first thing about teaching a goaltender. We’re working on it. We’ve done all right, but to continue working on it is great.”

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