Northeastern Upsets UMass at Home Behind Pantano’s 34 Saves

In their first conference action of the season, the Northeastern Huskies held off a third period siege from the UMass Minutemen, including killing off a full two minutes of 5-on-3 penalty time as well as the final three minutes of the game after a spearing major, to claim victory by the score of 3-1. Huskies goaltender Craig Pantano saved 34 shots in his first home game at Matthews Arena, and was the unquestioned number one star of the night. Freshman forward Matt DeMelis scored his first collegiate goal, and sophomore Jordan Harris scored the game-winning goal via a penalty shot in the second period.

After a first period that featured a lot of sloppy hockey that threatened to put the crowd to sleep, the Huskies came back with a flurry in the second period, aided by an early powerplay on which they did not score, but got five shots on net in two minutes and then held the offensive zone for what seemed like another couple minutes of real time without a clear, finally finishing with a loose puck in front. DeMelis flew in from the right side of the slot to gather the puck and waited as goaltender Matt Murray put himself prone to try and save a quick shot, but DeMelis roofed it for his first of the season. This all after a powerplay where the Huskies could have/should have scored no fewer than three times. It truly was an impeccable display of puck handling, passing, and zone control, just missing that final finishing blow.

Merely three minutes after the DeMelis goal, Harris went in on a two on one before beating the defender to the slot, where he was hauled down. Granted a penalty shot, Harris pulled a move straight out of NHL 20 to beat Murray blocker side. We fully acknowledge that the house music playing during the shot attempt was a fault of the Matthews Arena crew, and should NOT have happened, however the referees did not blow the action dead, nor would silence have helped Murray save that puck. Check out the shot here, which featured as #6 on today’s Sportscenter Top Ten.

UMass would storm back in the third, attacking the net with a vengeance and outshooting the Huskies in the third 17-6 as they were desperate to score. Finally seven minutes into the period the Minutemen won a board battle and freshman Matthew Kessel clapped a slap shot past Pantano’s blocker, a shot he barely reacted to due to a screen in front. The Huskies would continue to hold off the UMass assault, until Zach Solow won a battle along the boards and outskated and out-maneuvered the UMass defense to get the puck to the open neutral zone, where he fired a shorthanded, empty net goal true to the net.

Thoughts on the game

  • Craig Pantano earned every bit of the two points from the win. The goaltender was a rock in net, controlling rebounds well, moving across the crease like a pro, and stopping multiple dangerous UMass chances both in close and across the crease. At times, dare I say, he looked like Cayden Primeau out there. If this is the kind of Craig Pantano the Huskies brought in, the goaltending question mark will be answered quickly and soundly.
  • The Huskies’ penalty killers were phenomenal, and Coach Madigan likes to say a good goalie is your best penalty killer, but the skaters deserve credit too. Going a perfect five for five on the night, including the final three minutes of the game, half of which was six on four, it was a heroic effort. Players like Matt Filipe, John Picking, and Ryan Shea, seniors who may not fill up the stat sheet every game, showed their immeasurable worth with their positioning, backchecking, and abilities to stay in shooting lanes and get the puck away from danger.
  • Julian Kislin has grown leaps and bounds in one offseason, acting as a stabilizing force on defense. He defends the puck extremely well, in a Nolan Stevens-type of way where he keeps spinning and rotating but the defender is never in any real threat to poke it off of him. He will continue to grow into a huge right-handed asset for the Hounds.
  • The powerplay looked very good at times, very bad at times, and unfortunately is now sitting at 0/15 on the season. As we’ve seen in the past, Jerry Keefe is one of the best at this level in designing a powerplay and getting success, so it’s only a matter of time before it starts clicking.

Looking Ahead

With two points secured and three wins locked down, the Huskies turn their attention to Holy Cross, visiting Matthews Arena this Saturday out of Atlantic Hockey. The Crusaders are 1-0 on the young season, defeating Providence in overtime in their season opener. They play tomorrow against Merrimack, so they will be well-tested and primed for more Hockey East action this offseason. Their top returning scorer is Anthony Vincent, a sophomore who had 5-16-21 last season, while Kevin Darrar is the leading returning goal scorer with eight. Junior forward Andrew Dumaresque had a goal and an assist against PC, and goaltender Matt Radomsky had thirty-one saves.

As we’ve seen in the past, the Huskies are not infallible to out-of-conference opponents, particularly from Atlantic Hockey. The Huskies will need to show their defensive prowess from Tuesday night as well as cash in on some more good goal-scoring chances if they hope to beat their Worcester opponents.

Puck drop is 7:00 Saturday. As always, go Huskies!

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