As the Skatin’ Rebels wrapped up their regular season with one final home series against the Oregon Ducks, Dominik Estrada played his final games against his younger brother, Ezekiel Estrada for the first and only time.
Dominik played for the Oregon Ducks for the last four years, joining the team back in 2017. During his time there, he helped the program grow to make the jump from playing at the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Division II level to the Division I level.
While Dominik says farewell to the Ducks, he looks forward to watching the team finally play Division I next season.
“It’s personally bittersweet, I would love to play at that higher competitive level, especially with the jump to D1,” Dominik said, “but I’m extremely excited for the future of the program. Being there from the first day that our current coach walked on the ice with us and to see how it has grown in the last four years is an absolute achievement. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
As Dominik ends his career with the Ducks, Ezekiel is just starting his career with the Rebels as a freshman attending UNLV.
Ezekiel took four years off from playing competitive hockey due to an injury, making this season with the Skatin’ Rebels his first time back out on the ice.
“It’s a strange feeling, coming back to something that I loved as a kid and grew up playing- my life evolved around it,” Ezekiel said. “When it was out of my life, there was a piece of me missing so coming back to it is something special. It’s a season to remember, especially moving forward. I’m looking forward to the next season to come.”
With Ezekiel’s return to the ice, he has proven himself to be a key player on the team totalling 12 goals and 12 assists for 24 points during the 29 games played in the scarlet and gray. Ezekiel started in 8-out-of-29 games for the Rebels.
While the two brothers were born in California, they grew up playing hockey in Homer, AK.
Growing up in the small town, everyone knew everyone so Dominik got wrapped up in playing hockey with one of his closest friends, which also led to Ezekiel stepping out on the ice as a hockey player.
“[Dominik]’s actually the reason I started playing,” Ezekiel said. “He started playing first so I just- you know the little brother following in the footsteps of big brother- I just wanted to try it out and fell in love with it. Since then everything else happened to lead to this moment.”
Rebels vs Ducks
The Skatin’ Rebels ended their regular season at home on March 4 and 5 against Oregon, where Ezekiel scored one goal and two assists against the Ducks.
On Friday, March 4, the two brothers met at center ice during warm-ups to swap some comments while getting some light stretching in.
That would mark the only time the two brothers would be on the ice at the same time for the first game of the series.
Despite being in a lower division, Oregon played with a strong defense to hold off 44 shots from UNLV while its offense only managed to get 17 shots on goal past the Rebel defense.
With his last name being a target on his back during the series, Ezekiel took multiple hard hits from the Ducks.
“It just shows how much of a threat Zeke is when it comes to his play style,” Dominik said. “I’m sure he takes it as a compliment that it takes absolutely everything to shut him down.”
Ezekiel took the first penalty of the night, getting sent to the box with two minutes for roughing with one of the Ducks. The penalty came at 11:24 in the second period.
Returning to the ice for Saturday night’s game, nothing changed for the Ducks targeting Ezekiel on the ice as he took more penalties from Oregon.
However, Ezekiel managed to give it right back to the Ducks, sending them to the boards as equally as they sent him.
Ezekiel gave the Rebels their 2-1 lead with eight minutes left in the first period, scoring a goal off of teammates Luke Burke and Angelos Tsalafos.
“I knew that since they were a little harder on me that I had to battle back,” Ezekiel said. “I let the points do the talking.”
The brothers finally saw time on the ice together in the second period of the game, with Dominik lighting poking his brother with his stick. Only smiles were seen from the boys throughout the game.
“It was a great experience. It was probably the best moment in hockey in recent memory. I wouldn’t want it to go any other way than to end it on the same ice as Zeke,” Dominik said. “Being able to face off in front of our family, in front of a sold out crowd was a dream come true.”
In the third period, Ezekiel earned himself two more points off of power-play goals by assisting Nick Flanders and Brendan Manning.
Ezekiel not only scored three points against his older brother’s team, but in front of a crowd that included his whole family, some of whom have never seen the two Estrada boys play before.
“This was something special and it’s something I’ll remember forever,” Ezekiel said. “It just went so much better than what I could’ve imagined… We’ll all remember and cherish these moments.”
Oregon’s season came to an end with the series, but the Skatin’ Rebels continue to play as they head to Nationals.
The Rebels will take on the winner of No. 20 Navy versus No. 13 Pittsburgh for a 10:15 am CST puck drop on March 11.
You can watch Ezekiel Estrada and the rest of the Rebels on HockeyTV or follow UNLV Hockey on Twitter for live updates.