Hockey in Vegas: The Journey East to the City of Sin

By Richard Castañeda, Staff Reporter

In the name of adventure, I decided to cover the ice hockey team as they played back-to-back road games against the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Spontaneity played a large role in the decision to go. Everyone needs a great excuse to go to Vegas. Mine happened to be for both business and pleasure.

I rounded up a couple friends and made my way west to The City of Sin. Much like the hockey team on Friday, I ended up leaving a little later than planned because my friend had some loose ends to tie. I decided for this trip to forego the usual route: 134 East to 210 East to 15 North.

I heard about an alternate route that’s closer to my house. I took the 5 North to 14 North to 138 East to 18 East which finally leads to 15 North. It’s a much better route to cut through all the San Bernardino traffic and also to get lost in the scenery. Any time of day, the landscape looks fantastic. Joshua trees line most of the 50 mile trek between the 14 and the 15.

Hopping onto the 15 and watching the distance between Vegas and my car grow smaller; the anticipation grew with every mile tacked onto my odometer. There’s a clock on my radio that kept mocking me the closer I got to Vegas. I was roughly an hour behind schedule and in danger of being late for the game.

My friend busted out her cell phone and measured my speed to the distance left for Vegas. Each time I was either 30-45 minutes behind my desired time: 5:00 p.m. The game started at 6:00 p.m. and I wanted to be on time to check into my motel and prepare for the game.

As the bland desert landscape gave way to Primm, the border town as you enter Nevada, my worries eased. I was about 30 miles away and doing great time. My excitement only grew with the Vegas skyline in view 15 minutes before the start of the game.

According to my crafty Google maps directions, the Sobe Ice Arena was just off Flamingo Drive. Well, half an hour and a quarter of a gas tank later, we realized Google gave us the wrong directions twice with the same address. How that’s possible is beyond me, but thanks to Google, I missed the entire first period. I ran into the Sobe Ice Arena to find out the Matadors were down 6-0.

I walked in just as the zamboni was resurfacing the ice for the second period. I got my hand stamped with a pair of lips. That’s hard to explain to anyone not at the game that the stamp wasn’t from a strip joint. Anyway, I walked in to the best action I’ve seen yet from the hockey team despite the eventual disappointing loss 8-0.

The shutout loss did very little to make me regret the almost 300 mile trek out to Vegas. Sure, I drove out all that way to see the team lose, but the fashion in which the team lost was the most captivating aspect of the game.

In my opinion, the way UNLV played was both disgraceful and overall dirty. So many penalties occurred, the UNLV broadcasters had a tough time keeping up and announcing it. There was one brave, yet very drunk, CSUN student who kept chanting “CSUN!” in his slurred, yet distinct voice. He also taunted the refs and Rebels players after the game while interrupting my post game interviews with the players and coaches.

When I spoke with captain JP Gale after the UC Irvine game (which the Matadors won 19-3) he told me the team had to work on retaliatory penalties. I replayed that interview in my head as he got cross-checked from behind after a play ended and got into a fight with some of the Rebels players. He was subsequently ejected for the game for misconduct as was Ryan Jackson.

One of the more interesting facts of the game was that one of the referees officiating the game has a brother on the Rebels’ bench. Call that what you will. Call it unethical or bias, but having your brother playing against a team you call more penalties against clearly raises an eyebrow of suspicion. All the Matador players I questioned complained about the officiating as much as I speculated they would.

Sure, it’s typical for a losing team to complain about the officiating, but the Matadors have just cause for this one. The penalty that made me wonder “what the f&*%?!” was the Ryan Jackson play where his face was shoved into the ice repeatedly, he was provoked upon rising to his feet and HE gets ejected while the Rebels’ player was allowed to finish the game.

There’s many things to say about the referees that are best left for the fans to speculate and not this reporter to potentially libel, but what I saw on the ice Saturday night is not representative of the team I’ve covered over the past three weeks.

This isn’t to say UNLV isn’t a great team, they play a very dominating game, but their sportsmanship is just as terrible at the motivation on that Matador bench during the third period.