Ryan Salvaggio ‘20
After an impressive 4-0 shutout over Boston University at Lawler Arena back on Oct. 20, senior goalie Craig Pantano was named Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week.
Pantano receiving the award should not come as a surprise to anyone following the game as he was dynamite from the opening puck-drop, stopping all of BU’s 34 shots on goal.
The majority of his workload came late in the first and third periods, having to stop 14 and 11 shots, and was a major reason why Merrimack was able to hold BU to an astonishing 0-for-7 night on the Power Play.
“Being recognized for my performance is a great reward,” Pantano went on to say after he found out he had been given the honor of Defensive Player of the Week. “However, Saturday is over with and it doesn’t help us to get complacent. We are just refocusing on putting together an even stronger performance than last week and if I can help us win, that’s great!”
As Pantano focuses his attention on the next opponent, Senior team captain Mike Babcock acknowledges what his teammate’s superb performance has done for the team as a whole this season. “Craig is beyond deserving of the recognition and we’re all super happy for him. He has worked for everything he has gotten and kept us light and smiling in the process. Knowing that Craig can make the saves he needs to and the saves he shouldn’t have to keeps the rest of the group confident.”
Being with him on a daily basis at practices and games, Babcock was also able to shed some light on what he believes has made his teammate so successful this year.
“Craig has a quiet confidence about him. The thing I’ve really noticed is how competitive he is. He wants to stop everything [in games and at practice], and he wants to be relied on heavily. He trusts in his abilities and knows we trust them as well.”
With the win, Merrimack as a team improved to 2-3-0 (1-0-0 in Hockey East) while BU falls to 0-3-0 (0-1-0 in Hockey East). As for Pantano, his hot start to the year continues as he improved to 2-2-0 through four starts with both of his wins coming of the shutout variety. He also blanked Bentley 1-0 earlier in the month. Among goalies who qualify (at least two starts and 120 minutes played), Pantano’s .958 save percentage and 1.21 goals against average rank fourth and seventh respectively in the nation.
His performances of late have helped to improve his career numbers and also has him in some very exclusive company. With his stellar performances, Pantano now sits with a 2.20 goals against average and .920 save percentage during his time at Merrimack. According to stats taken from The Mack Report, those numbers have him at the top of the list in Merrimack’s Division I era. Accompanying him are some very successful goaltenders which include; Rasmus Tirronen, Sam Marotta, Joe Cannata, and Collin Delia.
Even with his good career and season numbers, Pantano knows that in the end the only thing that really matters is how the overall team performs. “I have only played four games and numbers can change very quickly. It is too early for me to be placed in any category. I try not to get caught up in statistics as they can be a distraction from what’s really important, winning.”
Pantano also went on to not only praise the former Merrimack goaltenders he finds himself situated with, but also the current goaltender tandem as well. “All the goalies listed are amazing goalies and people and our whole goaltending tandem can only hope to be mentioned in the same category.”