By Tim Healey/DFP Staff
Thursday afternoon after the No. 9 Boston University men’s hockey team’s last practice of the week, senior defenseman Sean Escobedo said the team had a challenge. Who, in the absence of senior captain and leading goal scorer Wade Megan, would step up?
As the Terriers hosted the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at Agganis Arena Friday night, Escobedo got his answer: Ryan Santana.
The senior forward, who switched from fourth-line right wing to center for much of the game as a result of Megan being out, scored a crucial game-tying goal in the first period and had arguably his strongest game of the year.
“He played real well. Real well,” BU head coach Jack Parker reiterated. “He played on two different lines, too, so he got a lot of ice time.”
Indeed, after a less-than-impressive first 40 minutes for the Terriers (11-6, 8-4 Hockey East), Parker tinkered with the lines for the final frame. That resulted in Santana moving off the fourth line — during which he had freshman Mike Moran and senior Jake Moscatel on his wings — to third-line right wing with center Ben Rosen and left wing Matt Lane.
The changes led to big improvements for BU, as the Terriers came back to tie it in the third and then win it on sophomore forward Cason Hohmann’s overtime game-winner. But most of Santana’s damage came in the first two periods while he was playing his natural position of center.
The 24-year-old, Yorba Linda, Calif., native found the back of the net with about five minutes left in the first. Moran drove to the net and took the initial shot, then Santana got the rebound by RPI (6-8-4) goalie Bryce Merriam to knot the score at one.
The bottom two lines’ performance on the whole and Santana’s goal in particular drew praise from Parker, who said they played better than the top two offensive units for much of the game. Four of the top six forwards — freshmen Wes Myron and Danny O’Regan, sophomore Evan Rodrigues and junior Matt Nieto — stayed off the score sheet completely.
“The third and fourth lines, our job is just to go out there and get it deep and try and bang bodies and put pressure on [RPI],” Santana said. “As the third and fourth line for tonight, those first two periods I think we did a good job of that. We didn’t try to do anything too fancy. That’s not really our job or our style.”
Santana would know.
In his three and a half seasons donning the scarlet and white, he’s never been a highly touted or flashy player. He’s never scored more than three goals in a season and has only 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in exactly 100 collegiate games.
But, once in a while, he comes through, just like Escobedo said someone would need to against the Engineers.
Santana’s energy also played a crucial role in helping the Terriers wake up from their apparent lackadaisical state over much of the last two games. After falling to the University of Denver 6-0 last Saturday, the Terriers were slow out of the gate again Friday.
“Denver, we were still sort of Christmas mode. The work effort was there, but the awareness wasn’t there,” Santana said. “[Friday] from the first period we were still kind of in that Denver mode. Second period was a little better, and third period it was kind of like we were back to that first semester sort of awareness and playing, and that is a good — we have to carry that over to the next game now.
“Hopefully we can do that because we can’t make too many mistakes this second semester.”