UNLV Skatin’ Rebels advance to next round with 5-2 victory over Pittsburgh

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UNLV Rebels lined up on the bench during the singing of the National Anthem before their game against the Oregon Ducks on March 5, 2022. Photo by Lucas Peltier /// UNLV Hockey

UNLV Hockey advanced to the quarterfinals of the American Collegiate Hockey Association 2022 Nationals Tournament with a 5-2 victory over Pittsburgh on Friday. 

This game was the first of the tournament for the Skatin’ Rebels, but it was the second game for the Panthers, who defeated Navy 5-1 on Thursday. 

The Rebels managed to come back in a huge way to defeat the Panthers after having a slow start in the first period. 

“The first period obviously wasn’t our best period, but we got the bus and flight legs out of us,” head coach Anthony Vignieri-Greener said. “A little adversity in the first period never hurt, so it was good to see them bounce back and really dominate the hockey game towards the end.”

Pittsburgh started the game out strong, outshooting UNLV 17-7 in the first period. The Rebels struggled to keep possession of the puck, relying heavily on defense and goaltender Zach Wickson to keep them afloat. 

“We were really flat in the first period,” Wickson said. “It was really important for me… it really helped me get into the game and helped me get ready to block shots. The warm-up- it’s a little quicker here, a little shorter here so getting peppered in the first really helped get my head into the game.” 

Austin Martz was first up on the scoreboard for the Panthers, scoring his second goal of the tournament at 4:52 in the second period. Ian Keller assisted in the goal to give Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead. 

It didn’t take long after the goal for the Rebels to start waking up on the ice. Less than three minutes later, Jaedin Ness tied the game with a goal of his own, assisted by Jayson Dimizio and Bradley Golant. 

The first-game jitters began to wear off for the Rebels as they grew more on the offensive side and began hindering the Panthers’ attacking opportunities. In the second period, UNLV held Pittsburgh to only five shots on goal. 

UNLV returned to the ice during the third period, high on the attacking zone. With a pass from Wickson across the ice, Dimizio managed to knock the puck behind Panther goaltender Devin Barresi for a 2-1 Rebel lead. 

The Rebels began playing at their full potential, continuing to keep the puck out of Pittsburgh’s possession. 

Dimizio scored his second straight goal for UNLV, unassisted at 12:05 of the period, giving the Rebels a 3-1 lead. 

“That’s a man against boys when you look at it,” Greener said. “[Dimizio]’s a great hockey player. He’s physical and when he’s playing his game it’s tough to stop him.”

JC Belle was quick to return the favor, scoring his own unassisted goal for the Panthers to bring the score within one, 3-2. 

A minute later, Nick Bandi entered the penalty box for Pittsburgh, putting the Rebels on their first power-play of the day. 

Defenseman Hunter Muzzillo took advantage of the opportunity, sniping a goal for the Rebels, assisted by Alec Johnson and Cole Wyatt for a 4-2 score. 

With 1:30 left in the game, a penalty was called on Pittsburgh’s bench for having too many men on the ice. Will Studt served the penalty for the Panthers as the Rebels took another power-play opportunity. 

Brendan Manning scored the final goal of the night, assisted by Paxton Malone and Sean Plonski for a final score of 5-2. 

The Rebels ended the day outshooting the Panthers 33-28. 

Wickson made a total of 26-of-28 saves, while Barresi only made 28-of-33. 

Three Stars

Dimizio ended the game with two goals and one assist, being named the first star. 

Wickson earned himself second star of the game with his 26 saves and one assist. 

Ness was named third star with his goal kicking off the momentum for the rest of the game for the Rebels.

“It’s definitely relieving [to come out with a win],” Dimizio said. “I definitely didn’t think we’d come all the way out here just to play one game, so I’m glad we found it after the first period and I’m stoked to keep going.”

Up Next 

The Skatin’ Rebels look to play their next game in Nationals on Sunday, March 13 at 10:15 a.m. CST. UNLV will be playing the winner of Saturday’s contest of Illinois versus Liberty, which will be played March 12 at 10:15 a.m. 

Both games can be streamed on HockeyTV or follow UNLV Hockey on Twitter for live updates during its games.

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