The Skatin’ Rebels came home for their last series of the semester winning back-to-back games against the Arizona State Sun Devils.
Game One, Dec. 10
UNLV defeated the Sun Devils 8-1 in a game with a meaning bigger than Rebel Hockey and all of the fans in attendance.
The night marked the most goals scored in a game for the Rebels as long as their largest win of the season.
Prior to the puck drop, UNLV Hockey joined together to honor the death of student Nathan Valencia. The UNLV Skatin’ Rebels organization donated $2 for every Greek life student who attended the game.
“It’s just a horrible loss for the school [and] the community,” assistant captain Hunter Muzzillo said. “We wanted to do anything to let them know, and give an opportunity for the community to let that family know that we’re with them and that Nathan will be dearly missed.”
The first period, the Rebels came out dominating, scoring within the first two minutes. Ezekiel Estrada knocked the puck in the net past ASU’s goalkeeper, Blake Bjello, with an assist coming from Paxton Malone.
Not even a full two minutes later, Michael Boutoussov extended the lead with a goal of his own with assists coming from Jake Berry and Nick Flanders.
“The whole team was buzzing, everyone was shooting the puck,” Boutoussov said. “We were all just flying out there, we all just clicked… we came out hard and we’re gonna continue battling our way to the top.”
With loud chants and cheers from fans, the Rebels scored two more goals in the remaining minutes of the period.
Malone, with an impressive short-handed goal, came after the team was in a two minute penalty kill from a tripping call.
Luke Burke extended the lead 4-0 with a power-play goal, assists coming from Max Johnson and Cole Wyatt.
Although the Rebels were offensively dominant on the ice, ASU outshot UNLV 12-9. It was with incredible saves throughout the night by UNLV goalie Zach Wickson that kept the Sun Devils off the scoreboard.
The leadership and chemistry is evident as the game goes on in front of the crowd.
ASU scored their first and only goal of the night immediately after being put on a power play at the beginning of the second period, with Boutoussov sent to the penalty box for slashing.
The second period was full of back-to-back penalty calls on both ends.
Burke brought the UNLV crowd back to life with his second goal of the night, assisted by Jayson Dimizio and Wickson.
A minute later, Boutoussov knocked the puck into the net once again to give the Rebels a 6-1 lead, with assists coming from Muzzillo and Berry.
After letting in six goals out of 17 shots, Bjello was placed on the bench and Dawson Rodin stepped on the ice for the Sun Devils.
The remainder of the night the Rebels continued to put on a show for their fans and family.
Team Captain Jared Erickson knocked in a goal of his own in the third period, assisted by Estrada.
Flanders ended the night on a high note with the final goal of the night.
Despite being outshot in the first two periods, UNLV dominated the puck in the third period holding ASU to only eight shots and overall outshooting the Sun Devils 43-36.
Boutoussov was crowned the first star of the night with his season high of two goals during the game, bringing his total points to six for the season.
Estrada earned the second star of the night with his one goal and one assist. Berry took the third star for his two goals.
Game Two, Dec. 11
The Rebels kicked off their winter break with a 7-3 victory over the Sun Devils, for their 12 straight win.
The night began with a Senior Night celebration for Liam Gentile, playing in his last UNLV hockey game.
“Having Liam [Gentile] go out on top was a huge thing for us,” head coach Anthony Greener said. “He did a lot for the program…when he did come in he helped out and always chipped in.”
With another early on attack from the Skatin’ Rebels, Erickson scored the first goal of the night with an assist from Malone.
The Rebels kept the momentum going, extending the lead with a goal by Boutoussov, to make it 2-0. This marked Boutoussov’s third straight game scoring a goal, and his sixth goal in the scarlet and gray.
Flanders came out, crushing the puck to the net, assisted by Boutoussov and Bradley Golant.
With 14 important saves from goaltender Vince Benedetto, UNLV walked out of the first period with a 3-0 lead.
During the second period, the Rebels appeared to lose some momentum and got into trouble. ASU scored immediately in the first thirty seconds.
Flanders was able to answer shortly with a goal making it 4-1, with assists once again coming from Boutoussov and Golant. The three proved to be a powerful line.
The Sun Devils were desperately fighting back as they tightened the gap to 4-3, with a goal coming off a 5-on-3 power play with both Malone in the box for cross checking and Gentile for an interference call.
The Skatin’ Rebels came back out to the ice at full power for their final period, with much more precision and focus.
UNLV went on a power-play early in the third period with a penalty called on ASU for elbowing. Golant scored an important goal from the team with assists coming from Dimizio for a 5-3 score.
After some penalty trouble from both sides of the ice, Hunter Muzzillo skated to ensure a wider victory with a goal and another assist from Dimizo.
Golant ended the night with a goal for the final score of the night 7-3.
“I think this is the scoring power we’ve had all along. We got a lot of chemistry from a couple of our lines. With those guys pitching in, we should have nice games like this all the time.”
The Sun Devils outshot the Rebels 58-44, but despite the strong fight, they were unable to leave Vegas with a win.
Benedetto made an impressive 55 saves to help UNLV with the victory of the night.
The first star of the night was awarded to Flanders with his two goals and two assists. Golant earned the second star of the night with his two goals and one assist.
Boutoussov was the third star of the night with one goal and one assist. This series was the best series of the season for him with an added six points for Boutoussov as the Rebels head into the break.
“We have said this in the beginning, we are the best team in the league,” Flanders said. “We just want to keep building into next year, as long as the team wins. All the guys stepped up big when we were out there this week. It just means a lot.”
After a month off for the holidays, the Skatin’ Rebels return to City National Arena in January to host Jamestown for a series to kick off the start of the spring semester.
The games will take place on Jan. 14 and 15 with a 7:30 p.m. puck drop for both nights. UNLV students get free admission with their RebelCard at the door, all other tickets can be purchased at rebelhockey.con/tix/ or at the door.