Back to the future for Bayside's Escobedo
It’s been a long time since Sean Escobedo played at Iceworks in Syosset, a long time since he wore a St. Mary’s of Manhasset sweater.
But he was back at the rink this week, this time as an invite to the Islanders Prospect Camp, which included playing in the club’s annual Orange vs. Blue Rookie Scrimmage Thursday night.
In one seven-day span, the Bayside, Queens native went back in time and glimpsed into what he hopes is his future.
“St. Mary’s was definitely a fun time, playing high school hockey right here, although the rink has changed a little bit since I’ve last been here,” Escobedo told MSG Varsity. “It’s crazy to see where I’ve come from, playing at St. Mary’s, now at college and here at this camp.”
Escobedo is a rising senior defenseman at national powerhouse Boston University, which regularly churns out NHL players, including Matt Gilroy, another St. Mary’s standout, who played with the Rangers and is now with the Ottawa Senators.
Escobedo is among a handful of players from the New York area on the BU roster, but the only one hailing from Queens. Escobedo said his brother Brian, who played at Bowling Green from 2000-04, helped pave the way.
“We don’t find too many city guys mixing it up in the college hockey scene,” he said. “My older brother went through the same process and went to college to play hockey so following in his footsteps was a seamless path to take. It was easier for me.”
Escobedo said he often gets made fun of when his New York accent escapes, but he gives as good as he takes.
“It’s a little different from New York City and I’m not afraid to tell coach Jack Parker that, throw on my Yankees hat in front of his face,” he joked.
Parker, a coaching legend who is entering his 40th year at the school, is a big reason why Escobedo chose Boston University. The fact that Parker’s program is a breeding ground for pro players, annually competes for the national championship and that the school is located in the heart of Boston also contributed to his decision.
Escobedo was one of five Terriers – the only freshman – to play in all 38 contests in 2009-10 and competed in the same number of games in each of his next two seasons with BU.
“The coaching staff at BU has really been harping on me to play consistent, smart and solid every night, making sure I take care of my responsibilities in my defensive end first before joining the offense,” Escobedo said. “As long as I’m taking care of that and making sure I’m doing my job first of keeping the puck out of our net, I can get some good ice time.”
Along the way, Escobedo has played in a couple of iconic venues. He recorded his first collegiate point, assisting on the game-winning goal as BU beat archrival Boston College at Fenway Park on Jan. 8, 2010.
“Fenway was pretty cool,” he said. “Getting the snowflakes going in the middle of the game was nice, it was special and beating BC is always great.”
And then there was the opportunity to play in front of a sellout crowd at Madison Square Garden in Boston University’s annual “Red Hot Hockey” showdown with Cornell. The Terriers won the game, 2-1, in overtime on Nov. 26, 2011.
“Being from Queens, playing at the Garden in front of family and friends was something I couldn’t even believe,” Escobedo said. “Just going out on the Garden ice and being where the Rangers dress, I thought that was amazing.”
Of course, Escobedo wants to play at the Garden, or any NHL rink, on a regular basis. Getting a chance to play against Islanders prospects, including Ryan Strome, the fifth overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, Griffin Reinhart, the Isles No. 4 overall selection in this year’s draft and Nino Niederreiter, who played in 55 games for the Islanders last season, all week was a good litmus test.
“I can definitely use that as a gauge to see where I am in regard to the next level,” he said. “Guys have experience on the next level already so playing against them, seeing what they’re doing and how they’re preparing is always helpful insight for me to see what I need to do to get to the next level.”
Escobedo fared well, especially in the Orange vs. Blue Rookie Scrimmage where he helped lead the Orange squad to a 6-0 victory.
“I thought it was a lot of fun,” Escobedo said. “The speed and pace was pretty good. I noticed every pass was on the tape and everyone was going hard, no one was really taking a shift off. Just taking that back to school next year is something I’m going to be keen on.”
Escobedo, 21, will take that experience back to Boston where he’ll embark on a critical final collegiate season. Already over the draft age limit, Escobedo is hoping to have another solid season with the Terriers and possibly sign with an NHL team as an unrestricted free agent.
If so, he’d join an exclusive club of NHL players from the five boroughs that includes the likes of Brian and Joey Mullen and former Rangers fan favorite Nick Fotiu.
But more importantly, Escobedo said he has unfinished business at Boston University as the Terriers attempt to win the sixth NCAA title in school history.
“It’s huge for me, especially being a senior,” Escobedo said. “I just really want to go in focused, get the boys on the same page and have the same common goal of winning a national championship. That’s first and foremost. I’ll worry about what happens after, after.”
If the present is any indication, Escobedo’s future will be even more memorable than his time at Boston University.
“It’s been an unbelievable ride,” Escobedo said. “I wouldn’t change it for anything.”
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