UNLV hockey bounces back with a win over Arizona

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Rebel defenseman Hunter Muzzillo (26) skates down the ice to bring the puck back into the UNLV offensive zone to help the team to a victory. The Skatin' Rebels went on to win the game against Arizona on Oct. 23, 2021. Photo by Kayla Faasse

The Skatin’ Rebels returned home over the weekend to host the Arizona Wildcats at City National Arena, splitting the series 1-1. 

Prior to facing Arizona, UNLV lost its series against Central Oklahoma in two hard-fought battles. 

The team came back to Vegas in search of redemption to restore their winning streak and after another hard loss to Arizona (4-3), the Rebels finally began to turn things around with a victory over the Wildcats (3-2). 

Game One, Oct. 22

Arizona handed UNLV its first home loss of the year with a final score of 4-3 to open the weekend series. 

The first period started slow, as the Rebels struggled to stay on their feet throughout the game, tripping over themselves and sliding all over the ice. They started off the first period with two penalties, the first coming from Alec Johnson for holding followed by Jared Erickson hitting the box for slashing. 

The Wildcats took advantage of the power-play and scored the first goal of the night 22 seconds after Erickson stepped off the ice. Anthony Cusanelli scored his first goal of the year for Arizona, assisted by Jesse Lowell and Cameron Teamor to put them on the scoreboard. 

To kick off the second period, Cusanelli took his second penalty for the Wildcats having an extra man on the ice. 

Less than a minute later, Max Johnson scored a power-play goal of his own with assists coming from Cole Wyatt and Alec Johnson to tie the score 1-1.

Shortly after the goal, forward Bradley Golant was sent to the box for tripping, giving Arizona another power-play opportunity. Once again, the Rebel defense was unable to hold back the Wildcats as Matthew Hohl scored the second goal of the night for Arizona. 

The Rebels continued to lack control of the puck during the period as the Wildcats managed to sneak two more goals past goaltender Zach Wickson. 

The first one coming from Max Meyer assisted by Teamor followed by Matthew Marquis’s unassisted goal. The Skatin’ Rebels were now trailing 4-1. 

With the Wildcats leading going into the third period, tensions rose in the arena on and off the ice as the fans sat on the edge of their seats waiting for the Rebel offense to make a move. 

The period started off with two penalties and a 10-minute misconduct from UNLV and one penalty from Arizona. 

Hunter Muzzillo brought the crowd back to life, five minutes into the period with his first goal of the season assisted by Paxton Malone and Jayson Dimizio to split the lead in half. 

Not too long after, Wildcat John Shively took a penalty for interference putting the Rebels on another power-play. 

UNLV took advantage with Luke Burke scoring a goal, assisted by Wyatt and Muzzillo. 

Despite the three goals in the final period, the Rebels could not make a full comeback as the Wildcats left with a 4-3 win. 

“We think we are the best team in the division. We think we are the best team in the country,” Muzzillo said. “When we walk into a building, we expect to beat whoever we are playing that night. We expected to win today- we expect to win tomorrow. We’ll take a look at the film and clean stuff up and then try again.”

The Rebels managed to outshoot the Wildcats 33-24. UNLV also took eight penalties for the night while Arizona only took five. 

“It’s crucial, I mean you never want to lose back-to-back games, especially at home,” assistant coach Nick Robone said. “You know they got a good team- kudos to them. They capitalized on their chances and we didn’t.”

Game Two, Oct. 23

The Skatin’ Rebels returned to the ice Saturday night with revenge on their minds as they defeated the Wildcats 3-2. 

“Last night I felt like we played well enough to win, we just didn’t capitalize on our chances,” ,” head coach Anthony Greener said. “Tonight we got chances and capitalized on them.”

Both teams kicked off the night with two new starting goalies, Vince Benedetto started for the second time for the Rebels and Anthony Ciurro for the Wildcats.

UNLV managed to gain more control over the puck and keep it in their zone. Brendan Manning scored the first goal of the night with less than two minutes left in the period, with assists coming from Alec Johnson and Ezekiel Estrada. 

Hohl answered back early in the second period with a goal assisted by Cusanelli and Teamor to tie the score 1-1 for the second night in a row. 

Christopher Hedgecoke went into the box for boarding, allowing Alec Johnson to score a power-play goal assisted by Estrada and David Lenzin. 

The Rebels entered the final period in the lead, with Sean Plonski securing the win at 1:29 with the final goal for UNLV, assisted by Estrada and Alec Johnson. 

With the assist, Alec Johnson took the spot as top scorer on the team with five goals and six assists under his belt. 

Halfway through the period, Greg Malafronte scored for the Wildcats in hopes of bringing home another win, but the Rebels were able to keep the Arizona offense at bay for the remainder of the game. 

Cameron Litwin took a penalty shot against Benedetto with six minutes left in the game, but Benedetto blocked the puck with his shoulder to make it bounce behind the net, leaving the Wildcats with no goal. 

With multiple big saves from Benedetto, the Rebels claimed victory with a final score of 3-2.

“Oh, it’s unreal,” Benedetto said. “I definitely needed tonight for my confidence, just to get myself feeling confident in the net again and obviously get the win for the boys. We needed a bounce back win, that was the most important thing.”

Once again, UNLV outshot Arizona 35-28, with the Skatin’ Rebels taking nine penalties and the Wildcats only taking six. 

Up Next

The Skatin’ Rebels (5-3) will return to City National Arena on Oct. 29 and 30 for a matchup series against Missouri State (8-2). 

Heading into the series, UNLV holds a winning streak of one, while Missouri has a streak of six wins. UNLV has only played eight games this year compared to Missouri’s 10, as they both battle to continue their streaks. 

So far for the season, the Bear’s defense has allowed 25 goals for an average of 2.5 goals per game, compared to the Rebels’ 21 allowed goals with an average of 2.6 goals per game. If the streak continues, the two defenses will be evenly matched in this upcoming series. 

Offensively, the Bears have scored a total of 51 goals for an average of 5.1 goals per game. Missouri’s top scoring series was against Grand Canyon for a final score of 15-2 for the first night followed by 8-2 in the second game.

The Rebels have scored 27 total goals for an average of 3.3 goals per game. UNLV scored nine goals in both home series to kick off the season against Illinois and Utah. Offensively, the Rebels will be looking at improving their shots heading into this weekend. 

Alec Johnson enters as the top scorer for the Rebels, earning himself three assists and one goal against Arizona. He leads the team with five goals and six assists for a total of 11 points. 

Kayson Galant enters as the top scorer for the Bears, with eight goals and nine assists for a total of 17 points for the team.

The Rebels head into the series with the attitude to play with discipline, strong penalty kills and power-plays for a well-fought battle in hopes of continuing to play strong. Both games will have a puck drop of 7:30 p.m. at City National Arena. UNLV students get free admission with their RebelCard and all other tickets can be purchased at the door.

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