UNLV (14-3) hits the ice at City National Arena in front of its home fans after five weeks filled with away games to host Arizona State (5-10) before the holiday break.
“It is tough to play on our own, we miss [the fans] a lot when we aren’t here but we’re excited to get back in front of them,” assistant team captain Hunter Muzzillo said. “They’re the best fan base in the country, nobody loves their team more than the Vegas natives. Their support is unbelievable for us so we’re just excited to get in front of them and give them two wins this weekend.”
The Skatin’ Rebels return with a 10 game winning streak, whereas the Sun Devils enter with a five game losing streak.
“When it comes to ASU-they’re a rivalry game,” assistant coach Nick Robone said, “I think for us it’s kind of hitting the reset button, realizing how important these last two games are before the break regardless of ASU or anyone else.”
“I think that we have to get back to being hungry. I think we lost a little bit of that last weekend so hopefully there’s a wake up call.”
UNLV enters this series after winning the Chicago Classic in a three-game long tournament and sweeping GCU in a rocky performance this previous weekend.
The Rebels continue to have a strong consistent offense throughout their season, keeping their 3.5 goal average per game 61 total goals.
“This series we’re just looking to execute and compete more,” forward Michael Boutoussov said. “Our compete level went down a little bit, playing down a little bit to GCU’s level and we hope to bring that compete level back and get a strong win. It’s going to be exciting to be back in front of our fans and just finish strong.”
The Sun Devils averaged 3.1 goals per game out of its 15 for the year with 47 total goals.
The Rebels’ defense holds the same consistency with 37 allowed goals for an average of 2.1 goals per game, compared to Grand Canyon’s allowed 65 goals and an average of 4.3 goals per game.
In the series against GCU, goaltender Vince Benedetto helped the Rebels to a 5-2 win over the Lopes with 26 saves. Benedetto has started in four games for UNLV with 115 total saves for the year.
“I just try to contribute as much as I can when I get in the net,” Benedetto said. “I just try to do the best I can to help the boys win and that’s the biggest thing just getting the wins. We know what type of team we are, we know how good we are. We’re just trying to have a good week of practice here. We want to finish strong.”
Max Johnson remains the top scorer for the Rebels, leading the team with 13 goals and nine assists for a total of 22 points. Following close behind, Cole Wyatt earned 19 points for the team with five goals and 14 assists.
Sun Devil forwards Damon Porter and Brendan Studioso are tied for ASU score leaders with Porter having seven goals and eight assists and Studioso’s four goals and 11 assists for a combined total of 30 points.
The puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 10 and 11. Follow the team on Twitter (@UNLVRebelHockey) for live updates along with a link to the stream.
Friday’s game will include a fundraiser for Rebel Nathan Valencia, who lost his life during a Fight Night event hosted by UNLV’s Kappa Sigma. Rebel Hockey will donate $2 for every Greek Life member that shows up to the game to Valencia’s family.
“You know it’s a really tragic incident that happened,” Robone said. “We wanted to make sure that we did our part in helping rally around the UNLV community. Hopefully we can raise a lot of money for him and his family.”
“I know that funeral costs aren’t easy and this is a tough time for them so if we could raise even a couple hundred dollars here, a thousand dollars. We would love to see Greek life come out and student life supports the effort. Hopefully we can walk out of here with two wins and really remember his legacy.”
Both games will include a tailgate at 5:45 p.m. outside the arena with giveaways, kids activities and more. Saturday night will also have a specialty jersey auction during the tailgate.
Tickets can be purchased at the door and are on a first come first serve basis. UNLV students receive free admission with their RebelCard.
After this weekend, UNLV hockey will return to City National Arena on Jan. 14 and 15 for a series against Jamestown to kick off the new year after the holiday break.