By Dale Desantis
BOSTON — Tuesday night’s showdown between the Northeastern Huskies and the UMass Minutemen was a chippy, defensive affair. The teams combined for 15 penalties, then failed to score on every one of the resulting power plays.
The Huskies triumphed in their home opener, topping the fourth-ranked Minutemen 3–1 behind the efforts of their freshmen and their grad transfer goalie. The Huskies have won their first three games and limited their opponents to a single goal in each one.
The game was scoreless well into the second period before the Huskies struck. With 9:23 remaining, freshman forward Matt DeMelis converted a wrister over the head of UMass goalie Matt Murray. The decisive goal opened play for both teams in what had been a stagnant offensive game.
The Huskies added to their lead later in the period after UMass defender Philip Lagunov was whistled for slashing Northeastern’s Jordan Harris on a two-on-one breakaway. The freshman defender took advantage of the penalty shot, confidently bearing down on Murray and flicking the puck over his right shoulder. It was Harris’ second goal of the young season.
The third period was electric. Just as the Northeastern defense looked unassailable, UMass freshman Matt Kessel drove a dagger from the blue line past Northeastern goalie Craig Pantano to make the score 2–1. A dogfight ensued, culminating in a five-minute spearing penalty against Northeastern’s Brendan Van Reimsdyk with three minutes to play. The Husky defense held fast, and Zach Solow notched an empty-net insurance goal with 12 seconds to play.
Pantano shone brightest, steering 34 shots away from the net and reassuring those who doubted the Huskies’ depth in goal before the season. He looked comfortable anchoring a team that heavily featured two freshman defenders in Mike Kesselring and Jeremie Bucheler.
“He gives you calmness, poise, and leadership,” Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said of Pantano. “He’s been in every building and has won.”
Tune in Sunday at 3 PM when the Huskies take on Holy Cross at Matthews Arena. Matt Cuhna and Adam Doucette will be on the call.