UNLV establishing itself as contender against top competition

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The Skatin' Rebels celebrate after defeating Missouri State 4-2 in the first game of the series. From left to right: Liam Gentile (2), Max Johnson (16), Michael Boutoussov (41), and Alec Johnson (22). Photo by Kayla Faasse

The Skatin’ Rebels were predicted by coaches across the nation to finish their 2021-22 season ranked as No. 1, and the team is proving themselves worthy of doing so. 

UNLV is currently ranked fourth in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA), following behind Liberty in third, Minot State in second, and Lindenwood in first.

Starting in late October, the Rebels managed to hold onto a 16-game winning streak, one of the longest streaks in the nation. 

“This is probably one of the best hockey teams that UNLV has ever had- definitely while I have been here,” junior forward Brendan Manning said. “I think everybody is just buying in and having a fun time at the same time as winning. It’s been a great season to be a part of.”

Central Oklahoma currently holds the longest streak with 17 straight victories. Along with the win-streak, the Bronchos were the first team to hand the Rebels a loss this season on Oct. 15 and 16 sweeping the series. 

After the tough road series, UNLV returned to City National where it lost its third game against Arizona. The following night, the Rebels hit the ice stronger and more focused than before to defeat the Wildcats and begin their streak of victories. 

On Nov. 19, the Skatin’ Rebels competed in their first game of the Chicago Classic against the defending national champion, Adrian College. UNLV managed to leave the rink with a 4-2 victory that night to take on Minot State the following night, who was ranked No. 2 in the league. 

After defeating Minot 2-1, the Rebels took on the No. 4 ranked Liberty defeating them with a similar score of 2-1 to bring home the Chicago Classic trophy. 

The Rebels entered the Chicago classic as the underdogs of college hockey, and left as one of the top schools to keep an eye on. Following the tournament, UNLV rode the winning streak all the way to its first game against Liberty. 

The Flames managed to take control of the game early on, securing a 7-4 win over the Rebels and snapping their 16-game winning streak to zero.

Despite the tough loss, the Skatin’ Rebels returned to the ass for a Flames’ Midnight Madness game and proved themselves worthy once again. 

With better offense and a stronger played defense, UNLV defeated Liberty 3-1. 

Returning from the split series, UNLV had a much needed bye week to recover and prepare for its next series. 

“I’m loving it so far. I think we needed that first game loss for sure,” Manning said. “Obviously that was a long weekend for us and we definitely have some bodies beat up so I think the bye week is important for us to regroup and just make sure we are taking care of our bodies.”

Overall for the season, the Rebels have yet to lose in overtime with a 21- 4 overall record. 

Offensively, UNLV has scored 101 total goals with a shooting percentage of 84%. Defensively, UNLV has allowed 62 goals. 

Zach Wickson remains the top goaltender for the Rebels with a 14-2 record for 432 total saves. On average he allows 1.99 goals for 32 total allowed goals and a save percentage of 93.1%.

Vince Benedetto has a 7-2 record with the Rebels for 256 total saves and a save percentage of 89.5%. On average Benedetto allows 3.33 goals with 30 total goals against. 

Head coach Anthony Vignieri-Greener has said that this team is one of the most tight-knit group of guys that he’s ever coached before and the team owes a lot of its success to the strong chemistry amongst the boys. 

“Everyone is excited to play this year and obviously getting one win after another after another- just building on that,” forward Michael Boutoussov said. “The team is only going to get better. Our chemistry definitely led to that sixteen game win streak and we lost one game unfortunately, but we’re ready to start a new one to carry into Nationals.”

As the Rebels continue to build off the success they’ve had so far, they prepare for their next series against Arizona State for the second matchup of the season. 

Follow UNLV Hockey on twitter for live updates of the 2021-22 season and game updates on Feb. 11 and 12 as UNLV looks to sweep the Sun Devils in Phoenix, AZ. Puck drop on Friday is scheduled for 8 p.m. MST/7 p.m PST while Saturday’s game will begin at 7 p.m. MST/6 p.m. PST. 

The next home game for the Skatin’ Rebels will be on Feb. 18 and 19, with Friday’s game being another Greek Life game for UNLV. Come out and support the team at City National Arena with a 7:30 p.m. puck drop both nights as they take on Grand Canyon University.

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