The UNLV Skatin’ Rebels returned home on Dec. 10 to face the Arizona State Sun Devils, defeating them 8-1.
Fans swarmed the arena to support UNLV, in light of the team’s charity game for Nathan Valencia, a student who died in a charity boxing match last month.
"It means a lot to us, I know it means a lot to his parents who couldn't be here tonight,” Sigma Alpha Epsilon Social Chair, and frat brother to Valencia, Niko Beas said. “The fact that no one had to ask them to do that and they did it themselves, it’s amazing.”
The Rebels, fueled by the meaning of the game, came out swinging.
Just under two minutes into the opening period, Ezekiel Estrada opened the scoring for the Rebels.
Michael Boutoussov redirected a Jake Berry slapshot into the net two minutes later to give UNLV an early 2-0 lead.
UNLV continued to play fast, with Brenden Fehlig diving to chip a loose puck up to Paxton Malone who got in all alone and buried a goal of his own shorthanded, putting the Rebels up 3-0.
Luke Burke potted UNLV’s fourth goal on eight shots in the late stages of the period.
Penalty trouble opened the middle period for the Rebels, with a carryover penalty from Estrada and a hooking penalty on Boutoussov gave ASU a 5-on-3 powerplay, where Conner Tilmon scored the lone Sun Devil goal.
ASU continued to pour on the pressure, but Zach Wickson stood tall in goal for UNLV.
Jayson Dimizio fed Burke on a 2-on-1, where Burke easily tapped the puck home.
Boutoussov notched his second goal of the night after speeding around the ASU defense and chipping the puck over Sun Devils goaltender Blake Bjella.
Bjella would get pulled following the goal, as he surrendered six goals on 17 shots. Dawson Rodin came in as relief.
The Rebels found their way into penalty trouble once again, as Burke screamed at the official, got a two-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, and a 10-minute misconduct.
Hunter Muzzillo expressed his displeasure and got a two-minute unsportsmanlike penalty as well.
Dimizio got a penalty for tripping as well, giving way to a long two-man advantage for Arizona State, where they did not score.
Rodin started the final frame making three consecutive saves, all on tough shots, however midway through the period UNLV captain Jared Erickson had a perfect pass left to him by Estrada, and Erickson buried the seventh goal of the game for the Rebels.
A few minutes later, Nick Flanders would tap home the UNLV’s eighth and final goal.
Friday’s win marks UNLV’s 11th straight dating back to Oct. 23.
"Finally we got a whole game in,” Boutoussov said. “[The] first to fourth line got goals, super proud of this group.”
The win not only helps the Rebels in the standings but could also help the UNLV community heal.
"It’s a tragic situation so we wanted to put our best foot forward for [Nathan],” head coach Anthony Greener said. “It was good to see everyone come out here and support him, and the boys play a game like they did.”
The crowd brought plenty of energy through the duration of the game, with “Rebels” chants echoing in the rink and “Start the bus” chants with a minute remaining in the game.
By the numbers
UNLV has beaten an opponent by more than three goals six times, including Friday’s win.
UNLV’s 8-1 win is the largest margin of victory of the season for the team.
The first star of the night Boutoussov scored two goals en route to the victory, marking his second straight game of scoring. Boutoussov also registered his highest goals in a game this season.
Fehlig extended his points streak to three games with an assist Friday.
Goaltender Wickson won his 12th game of the year, improving his record to 12-2-0 overall.