The Skatin’ Rebels announced their first ever match up against an NCAA Division I opponent in the 2022-23 schedule.
UNLV will face off in a three-game set against the University of Alaska-Anchorage (UAA) Seawolves at the start of the season next year.
UAA needed a quality team to play in their pre-season, and the Skatin’ Rebels have proved to be a challenging team for the Seawolves to face.
“I’ve been working on this for two and a half years,” head coach Anthony Vignieri-Greener said. “It’s tough for tiers to get ACHA vs NCAA teams to compete against each other. For one it could be finances, it could be the schedule stuff like that. Like I said, for Matt Curley (UAA’s head coach) to give us that yes he’ll play us and where he’ll come to play us at home is a huge step.”
UNLV will head north to take on the Seawolves for a two-game series on Oct. 14 and 15.
Shortly after the series, the two teams will face off at City National Arena on Nov. 16. This will be a part of a week-long hockey event where UAA will also play Liberty in Las Vegas.
“It’s huge for our program,” defenseman Hunter Muzzillo said. “Obviously, we’re trying to take that next step to get our NCAA Division I status so it’s good for [UNLV] to see us matched up against a team like that- so they know that this team has what it takes to do that because we most certainly do.”
“Plus, for a lot of us that play at this program, we’ve always wanted to test ourselves against a Division I program just to see how we do. We’re confident we’re going to fair well, but it’s all part of the process of getting us our D-I stature so we’re just wildly excited for that weekend.”
With this opportunity, the Skatin’ Rebels will have the chance to get more recognition on a national scale. Vignieri-Greener and his staff will be able to really see where the team’s skill level is.
UNLV hockey has made itself a known force in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) for the past few seasons, including their current season where they’ve proved to be a dominant team with their first win of the Chicago Classic in November.
Now, UNLV has the chance to go up against a team that competes at the highest level of college hockey.
Lower-level teams in college hockey rarely have the chance to gain the exposure of the bigger schools by playing against them. Unlike other popular college sports, such as football or basketball, a team from a lower division playing an NCAA Division I team is highly uncommon.
As Rebel hockey prepares to take on the Seawolves next year, some key players will leave the team due to graduation, but Vignieri-Greener remains confident the team will be in the position needed to succeed heading into these games.
“I think we’ve recruited all those kids for the same reason,” Vignieri-Greener said, “where they can play if we make that jump one day if it’s in two years or if it’s five years we start to recruit the kids that can play at that level. We’re going to be losing some kids but also our recruiting class is gonna come in and help to fill that void.”
While the excitement is high in the program about facing a higher division team, the Skatin’ Rebels will keep their focus on finishing the current season on a high note
The Skatin’ Rebels continue to rise in hockey prominence over these last few years. The match against the Seawolves is the next step UNLV takes in proving themselves to be the best of the best.
“I think it’s awesome. When I came here this is what I saw the future for our program,” senior team captain Jared Erickson said. “To know that I was able to kind of contribute to the building blocks of our program and our future when we do make that NCAA jump- I’ll be able to tell my kids and my family about that so I’m definitely proud.”