Hear It From a Student - Not a Bad Start

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Hockey 11.jpg This was the night hockey head coach Jeff Jackson must have envisioned when he promised a new hockey arena to recruits of the Notre Dame hockey program.

A raucous, sell-out crowd of 5,022 whose noise level was elevated by close confines of the new Compton Family Ice Arena. A dominating 5-2 win for an Irish program fresh off a Frozen Four appearance and ranked in the top 10 of two national polls. A hat trick from sophomore Anders Lee and a goal from senior captain Sean Lorenz.

The opening of the new arena could not have been scripted any better. While the Irish earned a decisive win over Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), the night was about more than the game. It was a culmination of the rebirth of the Notre Dame hockey program under coach Jeff Jackson.

Before Jackson took control of the program in 2005, the Irish had one NCAA Tournament appearance in their history and played in a Joyce Center facility that felt like a temporary home. Also, the Irish seemed to have hit rock bottom in 2004-05 with a dismal five-win season.

Friday night showed how far the program has come since then with two Frozen Four appearances in six seasons. This turnaround eventually paid off in the construction of a state-of-the-art home. The cozy, 5,000-seat, double-deck arena left those in attendance in awe and motivated the Irish players.

"We really tried to stay focused on the game," Jackson said. "But (the atmosphere) made such a difference."

As for the game, its outcome was decided in a dominant second period performance by the Irish in which they built a 3-1 lead. Entering the period with the game tied at 1-1, the Irish outshot the Engineers 14-2, executed crisp passes and played with a physical edge.

"We were much better with the puck in the second period," Jackson said. "When our guys got on a roll, there's no question the crowd motivated them."

Lee quickly gave the Irish the lead with a goal 1:09 into second period. He found an opening by the faceoff circle and fired a shot into the back of the net for his second tally on the night.

At the 14:37 mark, Lorenz scored his second goal of the season. He momentarily lost control of the pass before regaining the puck and rifling a shot into the upper corner of the goal.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame's physical edge resulted in two penalties but the Irish managed to kill both RPI power plays.

Perhaps all the Irish needed was a home game to exorcise two disturbing early-season trends of slow starts and poor power play execution. While the Irish did not dominate the first period, they played the Engineers to a 1-1 tie. In their previous three games, the Irish were outscored 5-1 in the first period by their opponents.

At the 9:21 mark in the first period, Lee christened the Compton Family Ice Arena with its first goal on a shot from the side of the goal that found the back of the net.

Lee completed his hat trick with an empty net score 18:40 into the third period.

He could have completed the hat trick earlier on a power play in the third period.

However, his shot of the mid-air puck into the net was ruled a high sticking penalty.

Entering the night, the Irish had converted only four of 24 power plays into goals. On Friday, the Irish converted at a 33.3 percent success rate with one goal in three power play chances.

- Matt Unger ('14)

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