Ice Hockey, Sports

Escobedo celebrates birthday with game-winning goal against UMass

AMHERST — There was initially a bit of confusion over who had won the game for the Boston University men’s hockey team on Saturday. The Mullins Center PA announcer originally credited senior defenseman Sean Escobedo, but the scoresheet at the end of the game gave the goal to junior wing Sahir Gill. Freshman center Danny O’Regan set up the play, and it had appeared that he might even have been the last Terrier to touch the puck.

For Escobedo, though, it was no surprise when he was eventually recorded as the goal-scorer.

“Oh, boys, I got it,” he said with a grin when asked if he had, indeed, been credited with the game-winner to beat the University of Massachusetts 3–2 on his 22nd birthday.

The game appeared bound for overtime in the moments before the goal, with less than 90 seconds left in regulation on a 2–2 tie. Both BU freshman goalie Matt O’Connor and UMass netminder Kevin Boyle had been impressive and finished with 34 and 32 saves, respectively.

BU’s top two returning goal-scorers up front, junior Matt Nieto and senior Wade Megan, had already scored, but it was one of BU’s least offensively-oriented defensemen who made the difference.

“Coach drew up a play for us to wheel the net and I did, and then I had a little bit more ice,” Escobedo said of the play. “Once I wheeled the net I saw Nieto kind of open as the guy was trying to pressure me. So I kind of chipped it off to him and just tried to go to the net pretty hard and he had a great shot on net that caused the rebound. There was a lot of traffic in front and I just kind of whacked at it, and it was fortunate enough to go in.”

BU’s defensemen found themselves pinned in their defensive zone at times this weekend by UMass’s aggressive forecheck, and Escobedo was no exception. Both he and his partner, sophomore Alexx Privitera, rushed passes at times and made turnovers.

But Escobedo also gave up the body several times to compensate for those miscues, blocking four shots on Friday night and five on Saturday. He’s the first Terrier to reach double digits in blocks this year, and his 13 represent more than 20 percent of all the shots BU has blocked. That was key on Saturday, as UMass threw 70 shots at the net but only saw 36 make it through to O’Connor.

“I think they certainly do some very good things offensively and really test you, both down low and expanding it back to the points and trying to deliver to the net, but when they did, we got some key blocks,” BU associate head coach Mike Bavis said of the Minutemen.

Escobedo is the second-oldest of a young Terrier defense corps, after assistant captain Ryan Ruikka, who is now pursuing a master’s degree. Although there’s no letter on his jersey, an unofficial leader’s role often falls to him as one of the six seniors on the team’s roster.

He finished last year with 13 points — three goals and 10 assists — and two of those goals came in one uncharacteristically prolific weekend. This goal was his first point of the year. When he scored, though, he said his mind was more on the team than on the personal achievement.

“Relief that we didn’t have to go to overtime,” Escobedo said of his reaction to the goal. “It was a pretty tiring game. Both teams were playing really hard and it was a tough weekend and it was a good test for us. But to come away with four points, two from here, was really special.”

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