Notre Dame players at home at Mellon Arena
Peters Township graduate and Notre Dame center Christian Hanson stood at center ice gazing ahead during pregame warm-ups for No. 2 Notre Dame's matchup against Robert Morris Friday night at Mellon Arena.
Underneath his skates was the Penguins logo. Straight ahead was his large personal cheering section donning navy blue and gold. All around him were reminders of how far the Venetia native has come since he first started playing hockey as a youngster.
Sixty minutes of quality hockey later, Hanson and the Fighting Irish (17-3-1, 11-2-1) defeated Robert Morris, 6-2. Although Hanson was six hours and 400 miles from his team's rink in South Bend, Ind., he felt right at home.
"It was awesome being able to come home and play in front of my family and friends," Hanson said. "Usually my parents come and see me play at Notre Dame. I haven't played in Pittsburgh since I was 17 years old, so it was great to come home."
Hanson and Notre Dame right winger Christiaan Minella, a Peters Township graduate, did not record any goals or assists in the game.
"Obviously we had to win, first of all, but I'm still disappointed I couldn't slip one by," Hanson said. "But we won, and that's No. 1 on the list."
Jeannette native Stewart Carlin did not play. Notre Dame goaltender and Penguins prospect David Brown, who was the 228th pick in the 2004 NHL Draft, made 17 saves to record his 16th win of the season.
The 3,420 fans who attended the game accounted for the second-largest crowd to watch a Robert Morris (4-9-0, 3-3-0) home athletic event. A 1994 football game against Duquesne drew the largest crowd with more than 8,000 spectators.
Although Robert Morris was considered the home team, the crowd appeared to be a split fan base. Irish green jerseys, sweaters and T-shirts were scattered throughout the arena, which is located just 20 minutes from the RMU Island Sports Center, where Robert Morris plays most of its home games.
"It was a great experience, a great crowd and we had good support," Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley said. "We were excited about this event."
Just one minute and 26 seconds into the game, Notre Dame got a goal from freshman center Kevin Deeth, who finished the game with his first career hat trick. Erik Condra followed with a breakaway goal at the 7:14 mark of the first period to give the Irish a 2-0 lead. Robert Morris right winger Logan Bittle brought the Colonials within one goal when he scored in the final three minutes of the first period.
Notre Dame scored two second-period goals, and Robert Morris left winger David Boguslawski contributed with the Colonials' second and final goal. Robert Morris closed the second period trailing, 4-2, and couldn't catch the Irish. Deeth and Notre Dame left winger Ryan Thang tacked on two more goals in the third period to erase hopes of a Robert Morris comeback.
"We didn't play poorly," Schooley said. "We just gave them easy goals, and you cannot give the second-ranked team in the nation easy goals and when you give them easy goals, it ends up 6-2.
"We just wanted to play with no regrets and work as hard as we can, and we worked hard and we were all over them at times, but they are a good hockey team."