There is no longer an incumbent in the race.
With the news on Friday that Collin Delia signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, an open competition suddenly opened between the pipes for the Merrimack men’s hockey team, which will begin captain practices in just about one month at Lawler Rink.
Merrimack was in a unique position to absorb the loss of Delia this summer, with four goaltenders on the team until Friday, Delia’s signing still leaves the Warriors with the conventional number of goalies (3) on an NCAA roster.
There’s almost no question that 2017-18 would have been Delia’s season between the pipes. He was returning as one of the top goaltenders in Hockey East last season, and he would have been the starter from the drop of the puck in early October all the way through what the Warriors hope is a long playoff run that stretches into April.
But his signing leaves the door open for the three goalies that remain in North Andover.
Drew Vogler (Junior)
Vogler has to be the favorite to land starting minutes going into early-season practices. If nothing else, he has the most collegiate experience of any goaltender on the roster, with 34 appearances and 29 starts over his first two seasons.
Vogler’s career numbers are solid, posting a 2.45 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage.
As a freshman, Vogler took the starting job from a banged-up Delia in the second half of the season, and finished the year with numbers that would have made him a favorite for All-Rookie in Hockey East, if it weren’t for the smaller sample size in games played. In 13 starts two seasons ago, Vogler posted a .926 save percentage and a 1.99 goals-against average.
Those numbers from his freshman season suggest that Vogler could slide right into Delia’s role. Last season, Delia was one of the top goalies in the league with a .927 save percentage.
Vogler’s career numbers are brought down by an .897 save percentage last season and a 2.85 goals-against average.
But, his freshman season suggests that he can be top-end starter. It’s ironic that Delia’s save percentage last season and Vogler’s save percentage as a freshman are nearly identical. If the Warriors can get a .920 save percentage from its goaltenders this season, they’ll be set up for a lot of success.
Craig Pantano (Junior)
Pantano is a wild card. He has only made one appearance in a Merrimack uniform (last season at UNH), but in that appearance he looked solid, making 12 saves on 13 shots after coming in relief of Vogler about halfway through the game on Oct. 29.
There are a lot of similarities between Pantano and former Merrimack goaltender Sam Marotta. Both goalies are from Bridgewater and both came up through the South Shore Kings. Behind Delia and Vogler the last two seasons, Pantano was a bit lost in the shuffle, but he’s also not in the same category as most third goalies. Through midget hockey he played for one of the top teams in the area – Boston Advantage – and one season before joining Merrimack, he posted a .917 save percentage in the USPHL and a .920 save percentage T1EHL.
Marotta, like Pantano, was also lost in the shuffle early in his career behind All-American starter Joe Cannata.
Entering his junior season – as Pantano is, ironically – Marotta beat out Rasmus Tirronen unexpectedly for the starting job and posted a .925 save percentage in 27 games.
Logan Halladay (Freshman)
Halladay has loads of potential and has been on the trajectory of a top-end prospect since he was a teenager. In 2012, Halladay was one of the goaltenders on the U.S. Youth Olympic Team that also included Jack Eichel, and since then he has been a regular starter in the USHL, the top development league in the world for college hockey.
Originally committed to Minnesota, Halladay has almost 100 games of USHL experience. That’s impressive. Halladay has also consistently posted a save percentage above .900 in a league that features the best of the best, and is often high-scoring. He was ranked by Central Scouting for the 2015 NHL Draft, but wasn’t selected. Halladay also has a development camp for the Carolina Hurricanes already under his belt.
Like any freshman, he comes in a relative unknown. But with his background and experience at the junior level, there is plenty of evidence that suggests he could be a top-end goalie in Hockey East.--
Mike McMahon has covered Merrimack College for The Eagle Tribune since 2006 and he also has been a senior writer at College Hockey News since 2005.
You can follow Mike on Twitter @MikeMcMahonCHN and you can follow the site @TheMackReports.