Rebel Hockey complete their first series of the 2021-22 season with a sweep of the Illinois Fighting Illini, kicking off the season 2-0 with a 5-3 win Saturday night.
The Skatin Rebels looked much better off of the drop of the puck than they did Friday night, making crisper passes and playing better in transition.
"We got a lot of work to do,” Head Coach Anthony Greener said post-game. “That first period of the second game was the best period we played.”
UNLV found scoring chances early and often, with forward Angelos Tsalafos getting a good look in the slot, followed by Max Johnson ringing one off the crossbar.
The Rebels would finally get rewarded for their efforts 11 minutes into the game, where M. Johnson deflected a shot from Alec Johnson past Illinois goaltender Elliot Gerth.
Three minutes later, Illinois’ Alexander Mateev was found parked in the low slot by Kip Hoffman to tie the game at once.
The first frame ended after some continuation of the rough stuff seen Friday night.
Defenseman Sean Plonski found the back of the net for the Skatin Rebels after a point shot squeaked through Gerth’s pads.
Another goal came two minutes later, where Cole Wyatt took the Illini for a skate in their zone and put a pretty deke on Gerth to bury a backhander with ease.
The Skatin Rebels took their previous 3-1 lead and upped it thanks to Nick Flanders firing a wrist shot over Gerth to put UNLV up 4-1.
Illinois tallied one goal in the second period to put them within two of UNLV.
The Illini would open the final period with a bang, scoring three minutes in to be within one. UNLV would get carried away with the physicality for the second night in a row, seeing multiple penalties.
"We had the same issue as yesterday,” Rebel defenseman Hunter Muzzillo said. “We gave Illinois opportunities to get back in the game and they capitalized on some.”
The aforementioned Muzzillo went to the penalty box early on in the third period and was followed by Brendan Manning who was tagged for elbowing, and Plonski for tripping.
UNLV defenseman Jayson Dimizio would follow suit as well after laying a hit on Illini Jake Sandomeno in the corner of the offensive zone. Sandomeno was dazed immediately following the hit and struggled to maintain his balance while being helped off the ice by teammates and medical staff.
Dimizio was sent to the box for two minutes, with the official call being charging.
Manning put the final nail in the coffin of the Illini series after potting an unassisted empty-net goal, making the final score 5-3 in favor of the Rebels.
"That’s the most important thing is getting the two wins,” Nick Flanders said. “The boys have been working hard for the past 20 months… work pays off.”
Looking to next week, the Skatin Rebels face the Utah Utes who are coming off a series sweep of their own, against Arizona.
"Utah is a heck of a team,” Muzzillo said. “To sweep Arizona? That's a top-notch program in the country so that says something about them. It's another test- one we’re looking forward to.”
The first of the two-game slate drops the puck at 11:59 p.m. on Oct. 7 and the second begins Oct. 9 at 1 p.m.