Hockey struggles at home against La Cueva

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By Phil Scherer

Playing back-to-back home games for the first time this season, the Los Alamos High School ice hockey team stumbled a bit, earning a tie and a loss against La Cueva High School.

The weekend marks the first setbacks of the year for the Hilltoppers after a perfect 3-0 start.

La Cueva entered the weekend with the most points in the league, earning 11 points in eight games. The Bears, which play home games indoors, are able to start the season significantly earlier than the Hilltoppers, which play in an outdoor rink.

Besides sporting the most points in the league, La Cueva also has three of the best, and most dangerous, players in the league: Alexander Furste, Jason Knoll and Benjamin Doughty.

Furste entered the weekend with 18 goals, while Knoll had 13 goals and Doughty had 12 goals.

As the weekend moved along, it was clear how good all of those players were, and how difficult they were to defend.

Furste made his presence known immediately in the first game between the two teams, as he scored two goals early in the first period, staking his team to an early 2-0 lead.

However, much like LAHS’ home opener against Taos a week earlier, facing a two-goal deficit seemed to wake up the Hilltoppers.

By the end of the first period, the team evened the score, with goals by Ben Rees and Ray Guffee, both of whom have been leaders on offense for the Hilltoppers so far.

The score remained tied 2-2 through the entire second period, mainly because of the outstanding work of LAHS goalkeeper Zachery Brown. All game long, Brown faced shot after shot, as the ice appeared tilted in his direction.

After the break between the second and third periods, LA Cueva resumed its puck control dominance, as Furste and Knoll were able to easily get around defenders and into the offensive zone. The hard work paid off midway through the period, as Simon Baca found the back of the net to give La Cueva a 3-2 lead with less than 10 minutes left in the game.

It appeared that goal would give the win to La Cueva, but the Hilltoppers never stopped fighting. After putting together some solid offensive zone time down the stretch, LAHS finally connected with just one minute left in the game as Jared Carnes’ shot found the back of the net, tying the score 3-3.

In regular season high school hockey, there is no overtime. Tied games end after regulation with both teams earning one point in the standings.

The teams worked hard in the final minute to earn the win, and it appeared La Cueva might do it. The Bears had a two-on-one breakaway in the final seconds that Los Alamos defender John Charles broke up with an all-out, sprawling effort, much to the delight of the home fans.

The clock ran out, and the game ended 3-3.

The Hilltoppers were not nearly as fortunate Saturday evening, as the game was once again played almost exclusively in the LAHS defensive zone.

Despite a strong performance in goal by Sam Fisher, the Hilltoppers could not contain La Cueva, which struck for two first period goals, and scored single goals in the second and third periods.

Seth Payson and Furste scored one goal each in the game, and Knoll added two of his own.

Furste now has 19 goals this year, and Knoll has 15.

The lucky bounces that went LAHS’ way on Friday went the other way Saturday, as stretch pass attempts and offensive zone keep-ins evaded sticks of Hilltopper forwards and defensemen time after time.

The game ended 4-0 in favor of La Cueva, as the Hilltoppers suffered defeat for the first time this season.

With a record of 3-1-1, the Hilltoppers will now begin focusing on this weekend’s games on the road against Durango, which enters play with a record of 2-7-1. 

Durango has been outscored 62-43 so far.

Following the three-game series, the Hilltoppers will be off until Jan. 19, when the team returns home for four games, two against Telluride and two against Durango.