No. 4 UNLV splits series against No. 3 Liberty with a comeback game

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Rebel Nick Flanders (11) faces off with the Flames during the second game of the series. UNLV went on to split the series with Liberty 1-1. Photo by Isis Goode /// Rebel Hockey

UNLV hockey’s 16-game winning streak was snapped over the weekend following a series split with the Liberty Flames in Virginia. 

“With one win streak snapped we just started another one tonight,” head coach Anthony Vignieri-Greener said, “Hopefully we can sweep the next two on the road and then we have four at home and continue that win streak for two on the road and two at home.” 

Game One, Jan. 28

UNLV entered the series with confidence after previously defeating Liberty in the Chicago Classic 2-1, but were quickly shown up with the Flames scoring multiple unanswered goals for a 7-4 victory. 

Vince Benedetto made his third straight start for the Rebels, with 32 total saves for the night. 

Paxton Malone opened up scoring early in the first period, assisted by Brendan Manning and Jared Erickson, sneaking the puck past Flames goaltender Hunter Virostek for a clean rebound goal.

The Rebels held on to the 1-0 lead for the majority of the period. With less than five minutes to go, Nick Flanders was sent to the box for unnecessary roughness to put the Flames on a power play. 

With an extra man advantage, Jason Foltz tied up the game with a goal of his own, assisted by Josh Fricks and Chayden Lauber. 

It didn’t take long for Liberty to steal the lead with Kam Ottenbreit sneaking another one past Benedetto, with an assist coming from Brett Gammer for a 2-1 lead. 

Bradley Golant was sent to the box with two minutes for cross-checking, putting the Flames on another power-play. Shortly after, Matthew Bartel scored assisted by Foltz and Jacob Kalandyk to strengthen their lead, 3-1. 

Early in the second period, Kalandyk entered the box for an interference call, putting the Rebels on their first power-play of the night. However, they were unable to take advantage of the extra-man on ice.

Ottenbreit scored an unassisted short-handed goal to boost the Flames even more with a 4-1 lead. 

The Rebels slowly began to pick up the pace in hopes of making a comeback, Ezekiel Estrada scored a goal with assists coming from David Lenzin and Jaedin Ness to bring the score to 4-2. 

Seven minutes after the goal, Michael Boutoussov left the game for a major-spearing with a game misconduct. 

Alec Johnson was sent to the penalty box shortly after for tripping, giving Liberty another power-play. 

Bartel scored his second goal of the night on the power-play, assisted by Fricks and Foltz to end the second period 5-2. 

With 32 seconds left in the second period, Bartel entered the penalty box off an interference call for a Rebel power-play that would carry over into the start of the third period. 

It didn’t take long for the Rebels to take advantage, with Alec Johnson scoring a goal 27 seconds into the period, assisted by Hunter Muzzillo and Cole Wyatt for a 5-3 score.

UNLV carried on the momentum of the goal, playing more fast-paced and more control over the puck. 

Estrada scored his second goal of the night, assisted by Bradley Golant to bring the score within one, 5-4 and raising the hopes for a comeback with 15:42 remaining in the game. 

At 9:01, Daniel Schwenke snuck the puck past Benedetto with help from Ottenbreit to lengthen the lead once again. 

Not long after, Foltz shot the puck off the pole and scored once again for the Flames for a score of 7-4. Fricks and Colin Baird received assists for the goal. 

Despite the Rebels’ efforts, they were unable to score another goal in the period, falling to Liberty with their first loss since October, 22, 2021.

“16 games in a row for the program is huge,” defenseman Alec Johnson said. “We can’t win them all so it’s kind of a wake-up call to lose. The remaining six games another streak will happen.”

UNLV outshot Liberty 45-39, keeping its streak of outshooting its opponents. 

Game Two, Jan. 29

The Skatin’ Rebels returned to LaHaye Ice Center with the objective of starting a new win streak, and they were able to do just that, defeating Liberty 3-1. 

Heading into this game, UNLV made a goalie change with Zach Wickson between the poles for his second match-up against Liberty this season. 

Brenden Fehlig (43), Brendan Manning (9), Nick Flanders (11), and Sean Plonski (28) join a team huddle in celebration after winning the second game against Liberty 3-1. Photo by Isis Goode /// Rebel Hockey

This game was the second midnight game of the season for UNLV, with Liberty’s white out night filling the arena with fans. 

“I honestly felt like I was at T-Mobile Arena at some points during the game,” Greener said. “Just 4,700 fans there all screaming but it was good once we tied the game it kind of settled them down and didn’t have to hear from them much through the end of the game.”

The scoring took a slower start in this game compared to the previous night with the first goal coming at 11:11 for the Flames.

Luke Burke entered the penalty box on an interference call, leaving Liberty with a power-play and a goal by Kalandyk, assisted by Bartel and Fricks. 

The single goal would be it for the period, with UNLV struggling to tuck the puck behind Virostek while outshooting Liberty 15-8. 

It took even longer in the second period to get any scoring on the board, but finally Alec Johnson got the puck into contact with the net for a goal, assisted by Wyatt and Max Johnson for a tied game at 1-1. 

Shortly after, Kalandyk was sent to the penalty box with 15 minutes for a butt-ending major with game misconduct. About a minute later, both Burke and Lauber were sent to the box with a two minute penalty each for roughing to give UNLV a power-play. 

Alec Johnson went ahead to shut up the cheering Liberty fans with a goal, assisted by Flanders and Muzzillo for a 2-1 lead.

For the remainder of the game, the two teams fought for possession of the puck as the Rebels tried to hold onto their lead and the Flames tried to tie the game once again. 

At 11:04 of the third period, Lauber left the ice with a 10-minute misconduct. At 19:23, Burke left with his own 10-minute misconduct. 

With six seconds left on the clock, multiple fights broke out behind Wickson’s net. 

Max Johnson and Zak Albers got into a fist match with both of them receiving a disqualification (DQ) for a major face graba along with a fighting DQ.

Golant threw punches with Nate Albers for their own fighting DQ. 

Once the fights were split up, the refs allowed the clock to be run down with UNLV taking a 3-1 victory over Liberty. 

“It feels great especially to beat a team ranked one above you,” Alec Johnson said. “Kind of a revenge tour so we got two out of three wins over them.”

Throughout the series, there were four broken sticks between the two teams. For the season match-ups, UNLV is 2-1 against Liberty. 

The Rebels once again outshot the Flames 43-25, with Wickson’s 24 saves for the night. 

Up Next

The Skatin’ Rebels will take a much needed week break before hitting the road once again to take on Arizona State on Feb. 11-12 with an 8 p.m. puck drop the first night followed by a 7 p.m. puck drop for the second night. 

Follow Rebel hockey on twitter (@UNLVRebelHockey) for live updates during the series.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Keep these articles coming, they’re awesome.
    This is an awesome rivalry. Setting aside how awesome it is to beat a terrible institution like Liberty, these group guys have only played 3 games against each other and there’s already a fierce rivalry between them. Liberty has everything this hockey program wants- a beautiful arena with their own sheet of ice, a storied history, an espn broadcasting deal. And this school from the desert went into that Lion’s den and tried to take it.
    If you didn’t already hate Liberty coming into the weekend, well, you do now. As a fan, I can’t wait to bring Liberty over to CNA. It will be a must-see weekend.
    They’ll probably meet again during Nationals as well, as this rivalry won’t go away any time soon. @MRLS5H3 suggested on twitter that Liberty vs. UNLV should be “Saints vs Sinners”, in the same vein that Notre Dame Football vs Miami’s games were “Catholics vs Convicts”. I adore the Saints vs Sinners moniker, since this rivalry is probably the hottest non-regional rivalry in club hockey currently.
    The rankings come Wednesday are going to be pretty interesting. UNLV won the season series 2-1, but goal differential is tied. Do they leap? Do they stay? It’ll be fun to watch, but in all seriousness, it really doesn’t matter. This team already proved that it can beat anyone, including in front of 4 and a half thousand college frat students on a Saturday at Midnight on ESPN3.
    Take this well deserved week off guys, you’ve earned it.

  2. The future is bright for the boys👍🏼 We have great coaching great players let’s get into the tournament do some damage boys graduation coaches! Looking forward to watching the boys at home!!🏒🥅🕺🏼🎉⭐️have a safe trip, Proud to be a Rebel👍🏼🥇

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