Northeastern vs. BU | Monday, 7:30 p.m.

Northeastern goalie Craig Pantano took an unlikely path to a starring role in the Beanpot

Boston MA 2/2/20 Harvard University Crimson defenseman Jack Rathbone (3) wrap around shot denied by Northeastern University Huskies goaltender Craig Pantano (29) and defenseman Julian Kislin (8) during third period action of the first round of the Beanpot Tournament at TD Garden. (photo by Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff) topic: reporter:
Matthew J. Lee
Northeastern goalie Craig Pantano stopped 27 of 28 shots in the Huskies’ 3-1 win over Harvard in the first round of the Beanpot.

Last winter, Craig Pantano didn’t envision that he’d be playing in goal at TD Garden the following year. In fact, the Bridgewater native didn’t think he’d be playing college hockey at all.

But he’ll be suiting up for Northeastern when the Huskies go for a third straight Beanpot title Monday night against Boston University.

After completing his senior season at Merrimack last March, Pantano was surprised to learn that, since he did not play his freshman year, he had one more year of eligibility left. He was free to look at schools and play one more year as a graduate transfer. That would work out well for Northeastern, which was in search of a veteran between the pipes after Cayden Primeau decided to turn pro and sign with the Montreal Canadiens after his sophomore season.


“That opened up a couple of options,” said Pantano. “Once I came here, I’m a Massachusetts kid, so any interest from a Boston school, especially Northeastern, I was excited to jump all over it and see their interest in me. From there it was kind of an easy decision.”

Craig Pantano held the fort on this shot attempt by Harvard’s Henry Bowlby last Monday.

File/Matthew J. Lee

Craig Pantano held the fort on this shot attempt by Harvard’s Henry Bowlby last Monday.

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Try as he might not to look too far ahead, Pantano acknowledged circling the first two Mondays in February on his calendar when his transfer to Northeastern became official. In last week’s Beanpot opener, he stopped 27 of 28 shots to get the 3-1 win over Harvard and advance to the final.

“My family is psyched about it,” said Pantano. “Obviously they’ve seen it, and they’ve grown up around hockey. It was a great experience on Monday.”

On the outside, it looked as if trying to replace Primeau would be an unenviable task. In his two seasons with Northeastern, he led the Huskies to consecutive Beanpot crowns, as well as last year’s Hockey East tournament championship and two NCAA appearances en route to winning the Mike Richter award, given to the goaltender voted most outstanding in Division 1.

“Nobody here put any pressure on me or expected me to fill anybody’s shoes,” said Pantano. “They just wanted me to be me. That’s the way I try to approach it. He had a great career here, and that was that. Now it’s time for me to make my own path.”


He has compiled a 15-8-2 record for the Huskies, posting a .915 save percentage and a 2.42 goals against average.

His counterpart for BU is a little less seasoned but has earned accolades in his short time with the program. Freshman Ashton Abel joined the Terriers during the holiday break. In his first month with the team, he went 3-0-1 in four starts, allowing two goals or fewer each time and compiling a .936 save percentage and a 1.68 goals against average to be named the Hockey East Goaltender of the Month.

Last week, he made 35 saves in BU’s 5-4 win over Boston College to advance to the final. The Terriers will be looking to win their first title since 2015.

BU’s Ashton Abel turned aside this shot by BC’s Marc McLaughlin in last week’s Beanpot first round.
File/Matthew J. Lee
BU’s Ashton Abel turned aside this shot by BC’s Marc McLaughlin in last week’s Beanpot first round.

“In order to win, you have to have good goaltending,” said BU coach Albie O’Connell. “And in championship games you have to have championship goaltending, so hopefully our goaltending is right.”

Both Northeastern (15-8-2) and BU (10-9-7) are coming off losses Friday night, with the Huskies losing at Maine, 4-2, and the Terriers dropping a 5-1 decision at home to Merrimack.


“It’s a tough game to play in, obviously,” said BU freshman forward Trevor Zegras of the Friday night game before the Beanpot championship. “With the Beanpot, you’ve been waiting for that for however long since the season started. But you have to move past that. We’re just trying to get ready for Northeastern now.”

Before the 7:30 p.m. championship game, Harvard (11-7-4) and Boston College (16-8-1) will face off in the consolation game at 4:30 p.m.

Follow Andrew Mahoney on Twitter @GlobeMahoney.