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Hockey wins league championship

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By Phil Scherer

Despite being the top seed in the Year End Tournament, the road to the Rio Grande High School Hockey League championship was anything but easy for the Los Alamos Hilltoppers. The team overcame a loss in the semifinals, battled back in the consolation bracket and defeated the Amarillo Big Texans 3-2 to claim the championship.

After going 15-3-2 in the regular season, the Hilltoppers earned an automatic bye to the quarterfinals, where the team faced Telluride. 

Despite being heavily favored in the matchup, the Hilltoppers had trouble gaining traction. Telluride led 2-1 after the first period, and the game was tied 3-3 in the final period. Telluride, however, ran into penalty issues in the late stages of the game, and the Hilltoppers took full advantage. LAHS struck for three late goals and won the game 6-3, advancing to the semifinals to take on Amarillo.

It was clear early in the game that the Hilltoppers were struggling against an Amarillo team with a lot of speed and physicality. The Big Texans jumped out on top, and rode that momentum to a 3-0 lead in the blink of an eye. 

LAHS refused to give up, though, striking for a goal late in the first period from Jared Carnes and another in the second period from Jacob Dunwoody to close the gap to 3-2. 

The tying goal never came for the Hilltoppers, though, as Amarillo scored another goal in the third period and added an empty net tally to earn the 5-2 win to advance straight to the championship game.

With the loss, LAHS was forced into the loser’s bracket and faced Taos, with the winner earning the other spot in the championship game. In that matchup, LAHS appeared to be a completely different team. 

The Hilltoppers jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, and extended the lead to 3-0 heading into the final period. Despite two late goals from Taos, the Hilltoppers were able to hang on for the 5-2 win and advanced to the championship game for a rematch with the Big Texans. 

The rematch proved to be completely different than the first game, as LAHS jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first period on a goal by Conner Cook on the power play. 

The team was unable to add on, though, and Amarillo tied the game in the second period, setting up the all-important final period.

Carson Schramm gave the Hilltoppers a 2-1 lead midway through the final period, and Cook added his second power play goal of the game less than two minutes later to extend the lead to 3-1.

Amarillo scored with less than a minute remaining to cut the lead to 3-2, but it was too little too late as the Hilltoppers claimed the championship behind an outstanding goaltending effort by Sam Fisher, who stopped 28 of the 30 shots he faced.