After a 20-month hiatus, UNLV hockey returns to City National Arena to kick off their season as they host Illinois for their opening weekend series on Oct. 1 and 2.
The Rebels head into the year with eight newcomers alongside 21 returners. Despite being a returner for UNLV, one-third of them have never stepped out on the ice as a Rebel prior to opening night this upcoming Friday.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020-2021 season was canceled for UNLV hockey, so the seven newcomers from last year look forward to making their debuts as a Skatin’ Rebel in five days.
“They all come from a great hockey background,” head coach Anthony Vignieri-Greener said. “They’ve all won a lot of hockey games. We have high expectations here. I want to keep winning, obviously, and one of our main goals is to win our conference.”
Greener is heading into his sixth year of coaching for the Rebels after returning to lead his former team in 2015. He leads the team with the goal to grow and continue to instill his new culture.
Since taking the helm, Greener has earned UNLV over 80 wins, reaching the ACHA D2 Regionals, the ACHA D2 Nationals and moving up from ACHA D2 and leading the program into ACHA D1, where the Rebels reached the National Tournament in their first season.
The Skatin’ Rebels are predicted to finish first in the WCHL, receiving 87 out of 100 votes by coaches.
“I’m definitely excited,” team captain Jared Erickson said. “We have high expectations for our program. I think it just kind of goes to show that other coaches are recognizing what we have here at UNLV and we’re definitely going to have a target on our backs every single weekend. We need to make sure we respect every single opponent and come out guns blazing.”
During Erickson’s first season with the Rebels, he played a total of 34 games with seven goals and 12 assists for a total of 19 points for the shortened 2019-2020 season.
Even with restrictions still in place due to the pandemic, the team’s chemistry continues to grow every day as they spend more time together on and off the ice. Rebel hockey pre-season includes team bonding activities, such as going to UNLV football games together along with team get-togethers when they’re not practicing.
The first puck drop of the season is at 8 p.m. Oct. 1 as they take on Illinois at City National Arena. The Rebels are looking to jump into the season with a strong game against the Fighting Illini.
The Skatin’ Rebels will host 16 games this year, while traveling for seven away series. They will return home to conclude the season with two series, the first against Grand Canyon Feb. 18-19 and the second against Oregon March 4-5.
“I’m just looking forward to getting put in front of the fans, having fun with the guys on the road, winning some games and hopefully winning a national title,” returner Grant Smith said. “Hopefully, I can be above a point per game and just be in the lineup every night to play good hockey defensively and offensively to play my game.”
Season tickets are available for purchase at rebelhockey.com