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The Los Alamos Hilltopper hockey team finished third at the Year-End Tournament in Taos this weekend.
Los Alamos, the No. 2 seed in the tournament and the defending state champion, dropped its second round game in overtime and had to battle its way back through the losers’ bracket before again falling to the host Taos Tigers.
The Tigers, who were the top seed in the tournament, outlasted the Albuquerque OutKast to take this year’s New Mexico Interscholastic Ice Hockey League championship. The Tigers lost their first match-up with the OutKast in the tournament, but bounced back to win two straight and take the title.
However, Los Alamos has been invited to represent New Mexico at a national tournament — Taos announced at the beginning of the season it would not attend — and may compete at the national level.
In the Year-End Tournament, Los Alamos opened with a big 7-0 victory over Cleveland High School. However, the OutKast, the state runners-up, nipped the Hilltoppers in overtime, 3-2 in the second round.
Against the OutKast, Los Alamos took a 2-1 lead early in the third period, with Tyler Thorn scoring off an assist from Graham Delano. Chris Owens scored unassisted on a power-play chance late in the second period.
Los Alamos’ lead was short-lived, however. Albuquerque’s Nick Faturos scored just a little more than two minutes later, knotting the score at 2-2.
Albuquerque’s Cory King, who scored the first goal of the game, netted the game-winner with 3:13 remaining off an assist from Faturos to give his team the victory.
The two teams went 1-1-1 during the regular season against each other. Los Alamos outshot Albuquerque 20-16.
After falling into the losers’ bracket, the Hilltoppers had to survive a nail-biter to stay alive. The La Cueva Bears forced a shootout in an elimination game Sunday, but the Hilltoppers prevailed 4-3.
Devin Grider, who was named The Great Wall, given to the outstanding goalkeeper of the season, held the Bears to just two goals in the shootout, while the Hilltoppers tallied three times to take the win. Grider finished with 23 saves in the game.
Thorn, Delano and Niko Meneakis all scored during the shootout for Los Alamos.
In regulation, Owens, Dillon Coyne and Brett Snow earned goals, with Snow, Owens, Chase Havemann and Meneakis credited with assists.
Also Sunday, Los Alamos knocked off Cibola 4-1. Jade Castello, who was ejected in the team’s opener against Cleveland and had to sit out the loss to Albuquerque, scored twice against Cibola, while Thorn and Havemann also picked up scores.
The win over Cibola put Los Alamos into an elimination contest against Taos.
Los Alamos took a 1-0 lead just over two minutes into the contest, but the balance of the game would be all Tigers, who rolled to a 5-1 victory, bouncing Los Alamos from title contention.
Castello, who scored about half of the team’s goals this season, put the Hilltoppers up at the 9:45 mark of the first period, getting an assist from Snow. But the Tigers, undeterred, scored three times in the final 5:42 of the period to take control.
Wyatt Lawson-Hall scored twice in the game and had an assist for Taos, while Isaiah Tyree had a goal and an assist.
Taos goalkeeper Andrew Moon, who had 20 saves against Los Alamos, was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament.