Skatin’ Rebels Host Utah Utes for Midnight Madness game with Greek Life
For the first time, Rebel hockey worked with UNLV’s Greek community to host a Midnight Madness game at City National Arena on Oct. 7, with a puck drop at 12 a.m. on Oct. 8, against the Utah Utes.
The night started off with a free tailgate for all fans, including the chance to win UNLV hockey stickers, mini sticks, pucks and drink coolers. Fans were able to hang out outside of the arena with free beer and pizza while playing games such as cornhole.
“It was really nice that [Rebel hockey] was willing to reach out and do this event for us,” said Dominic Merten, Pi Kappa Alpha President and IFC VP of Programming. “I’m hoping to make this a yearly event. I want to hopefully come back multiple times a year and do more games like this, so tonight is just a feeler process. We’ll see how it goes.”
The parking lot and arena were flooded with local hockey fans and students looking to celebrate campus Greek life.
“It’s Greek unity. We haven’t seen each other in 20 months,” said Merten. “This one night is for everyone to come together, hang out, do something outside of their house, outside of their laptops, off of Zoom. I’ve missed my friends. I haven’t seen some of them in a while, so it’s really cool to see the Greek community have a really good time.”
With a screaming crowd behind them, the Rebels went on to defeat the Utah Utes in both games over the weekend, taking the series 2-0 to continue their win streak as they open the 2021-22 season.
Game One: Oct. 7 Midnight Madness
A completely packed arena cheered on the Rebels Thursday night, coming off a 2-0 series against Illinois while simultaneously booing the Utah Utes.
The late start of the game was represented by UNLV during the first period with a slow start to kick off the night. The Rebels struggled to establish a game pace and maintain puck control.
By the end of the first period, no one successfully scored a goal from either side. The Utes outshot the Rebels 18-8 as the Scarlet and Gray slowly began to pick up the pace.
Max Johnson scored the first goal of the game for the Rebels seven minutes into the second period, assisted by Brendan Manning and Jared Erickson. The goal came from a wrist shot under Utah’s goaltender Landon Anderson’s right arm.
The crowd reacted to the point by banging on the glass and rallying to cheer on UNLV to keep up the momentum.
“The goal was definitely a turning point for us,” said Manning. “We kind of bounced back after that goal and just kept them coming. [The crowd] definitely turned up and it was great motivation for us. I hope it’s something we can do every year from now on.”
Less than a minute later, Manning slid the puck in the net for another goal. Both Johnson brothers, Max and Alec, assisted in the goal, giving the team a 2-0 lead.
Utah was quick to respond with a goal of their own. Ute Michael Urtis knocked the puck in to reduce the Rebel lead by one.
Tensions were high on and off the ice, with both teams receiving more penalties and seeing the aggression increase on the ice. Sean Plonski broke his stick with eight minutes left in the period.
Not too long after, Alec Johnson scored with 6:01 remaining on the clock, assisted by Cole Wyatt and Max Johnson during a power-play, improving the UNLV lead once again and ending the period 3-1.
The third period began with an early goal by Wyatt, assisted by Daniel Fisher. The aggression continued to stay strong, with the Rebels racking up three additional penalties through the final 20 minutes.
UNLV led 4-1 when Landon Langenbrunner scored for Utah with 8:57 remaining in the game. The puck bounced off Rebel goaltender Zach Wickson’s shoulder before hitting the back of the net.
In a last effort of hope in the final minutes, Utah pulled its goalie in hopes of closing the gap, leaving the Rebels with an open net.
Max Johnson took advantage of this opportunity, smoothly gliding the puck down the ice and into the back of the net with 5.2 seconds on the clock.
“It starts with [Wickson] in the back end,” head coach Anthony Greener said, “Our [defense] held it down, and our offense chipped in when they needed to. It’s a team win.”
The game ended with a Skatin’ Rebel victory of 5-2. The three stars of the game were Max Johnson with two goals and two assists, earning him first star honors. Alec Johnson was the second star with one goal and one assist, and Manning with one goal and one assist as the third star.
Game Two: Oct. 9
Rebel hockey needed overtime and had to overcome a two-goal deficit to remain undefeated, beating Utah in both games of the series, going 2-0.
In the first three minutes of the game, Wickson made two saves for the Rebels as the team once again got off to a slow start entering the ice. At 16:25, Urtis got on the board with a Utah goal, assisted by Benji Mickel and Che Landikusic, taking an early 1-0 lead.
This is the first time that UNLV trailed on the scoreboard all season long.
The Rebels struggled to tie the game up in the first period, but still managed to outshoot the Utes 15-11. Even while trailing, the Rebels’ offense started off the game with smoother control of the puck compared to their first matchup.
Halfway through the second period, Utah scored once again to increase their lead. The goal came from an unassisted shot by Alex King.
A little over a minute later, Erickson notched the puck in the net for a Rebel power-play goal, assisted by Max Johnson and Wyatt.
UNLV continued to outshoot Utah in the period 28-18 with no additional goals added.
At 14:40 of the third period, Ute Ethan Light gained a one-on-one opportunity with Wickson where he got an unassisted goal.
Ezekiel Estrada earned his first goal in the scarlet and gray at 11:57 in the period, assisted by Angelos Tsalafos for a new score of 3-2.
With 10 minutes on the clock, Alec Johnson shoots a power-play goal in for UNLV to tie the game.
The tensions of a tied game quickly rose as the Rebels began diving to block shots on the net to avoid a Utes victory. The hard work paid off as the teams prepared to head into overtime, tied at three.
Jayson Dimizio concluded the game 22 seconds into overtime with his first goal of the season, assisted by Erickson for a final score of 4-3 in favor of the Rebels.
“It felt great. It was my first goal so I needed it,” said Dimizio. “It was definitely a good way to end the game.”
The Skatin’ Rebels improved to 4-0 this season, outshooting the Utes throughout the entire game despite the 3-1 deficit the team faced.
The team’s three stars of the day were Dimizio with the game-winning goal for the first star, second star went to Wyatt with two assists and Erickson as the third with one goal and two assists.
“That was the best three periods of hockey we played all year,” head coach Greener said. “The score doesn’t show it, but we stayed disciplined, the penalty kill was good, the power-play was good, [an] overall team win.”
Rebel hockey prepares to hit the road for the first time to face Central Oklahoma in another two-game series. Both teams are heading into the matchup with 4-0 records, ready for a challenging battle.
The puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Oct. 15 and Oct. 16. A livestream of the games can be found on the Rebel hockey YouTube channel. Follow the team on Twitter (@UNLVRebelHockey) for live updates along with a link to the stream.