Hockey: Toppers go win, loss, tie at tourney

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By The Staff

The Los Alamos Hilltopper hockey team went 1-1-1 in three contests at this weekend’s Mid-Season tournament.
The tournament, a series of exhibition game involving all 10 teams in the New Mexico Interscholastic Ice Hockey League, was held Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Taos.
The Hilltoppers, in second place in the NMIIHL standings, dropped their tournament opener to the Cibola Cougars Saturday, 3-1.
In their second game Saturday, the Hilltoppers scored the game-winning goal with just seven seconds remaining to top the Albuquerque OutKast 4-3. They deadlocked with La Cueva’s Bears in Sunday’s finale, 3-3.
Part of the significance of the NMIIHL’s mid-season tournament is to help in the selection for the league’s All-Star Game, which will be held Feb. 5 in Santa Fe.
In the first contest for Los Alamos, Cibola scored a pair of goals in the third period to pull off the upset.
Lane Lopez put in what would the game-winner for the Cougars on a power-play chance, then Curtis Brown netted an insurance goal with 2:40 remaining to seal the victory, Brown’s second goal of the game.
For Los Alamos, Brett Snow tallied its only goal, that coming early in the third period to tie the score at 1-1.
Los Alamos, one of the top offenses in the league, managed only 18 shots-on-goal in Saturday’s first game. Cibola finished with 21 attempts, 18 of which were stopped by goaltender Devin Grider.
In Saturday’s nightcap against Albuquerque, the OutKast scored three times in the third period after Los Alamos took a 3-0 lead just :38 into the frame.
Just 12 seconds later, however, the OuKast got on the board. Adam Gannon picked up the goal early in the period, which was followed up by two more goals in the next 3-1/2 minutes by Cory King.
With time winding down in the game, Tyler Thorn scored to give the Hilltoppers the victory. Jade Castello, the team’s leading scorer, and Nikolas Meneakis were credited with the assist on the game-winning goal.
The final goal was the second of the game for Thorn. Castello and Thorn both scored in the second period and Dennis Trujillo scored early in the third period to give the Hilltoppers what appeared to be a commanding lead.
Grider finished with nine saves in the game, while his counterpart from Albuquerque, Kyle Brown, made 17 stops.
Sunday, to finish off the tournament, Los Alamos’ Chris Owens earned the lone goal of the final period, that coming at the 9:53 mark, to force the tie between the Hilltoppers and Bears.
Owens had two goals in the contest, the first coming in the first period. Thorn had the Hilltoppers’ other goal, that scored in the second period. Castello had a pair of assists, while Meneakis and Billy Cooper also earned assists.
Los Alamos trailed 3-2 after two periods. La Cueva scored twice in the second period, those goals coming just seven seconds apart, to take the lead.
Albuquerque goaltender Jacob Swanson made 25 stops and Grider finished with 14.
NMIIHL will return to the regular season starting Friday. Los Alamos isn’t scheduled to play a regular season contest until Jan. 23 when it faces the OutKast in Albuquerque.
Its next home appearance is scheduled for Jan. 28.