The Taos Ice Tigers have had trouble figuring out the Los Alamos Hilltoppers this year.
In the first the three games played in the 2017-18 season, the Hilltoppers outscored the Ice Tigers 15-6 and outplayed Taos in just about every category to win three straight games, nabbing the North Star trophy Dec. 2 and keeping it in Los Alamos ever since. The North Star is a custom-made ornament that represents a traveling trophy, obtained and kept by the winner of any Taos versus Los Alamos varsity hockey match.
The owner of the trophy changed hands when the Ice Tigers defeated the Hilltoppers 8-3 in a makeup game at the Taos Youth and Family Center rink Feb. 23. The match was originally part of a two-game series played the first week of December, but soft ice, caused by unseasonably warm weather at the time, and malfunctioning equipment at the Los Alamos facility, made it unsafe to play. The makeup game set up a three-consecutive-game series with the two Northern New Mexico foes as the regular season wrapped up. On Feb. 9-10, the Hilltoppers outdueled Taos in two extremely physical contests. Taos redeemed itself in the latest victory and narrowed the points gulf with a dominating performance.
Playing out of his skates was Taos High School sophomore, Lachlan Henderson who scored five goals, including the game-winning goal. Henderson was joined by Justin “Juice” Lucero, Leandro Richert and Danny Cain, who each scored a goal to pile on the points in the fray.
Taos goalkeeper, John Delaney was credited with 22 saves for the win. More important, it appears the Ice Tigers finally figured out Los Alamos.
The win gave Taos an 8-10-2 overall record and a full two-game advantage over Los Alamos for the fifth spot in the New Mexico Interscholastic Ice Hockey League composite standings as teams prepare for the league playoffs slated for Friday through Saturday (March 2-4).
Taos is on target to play the La Cueva Bears or Telluride Lizard Heads in the first round of the tournament. All games will be played at the Genoveva Chavez Community Center in Santa Fe. The puck will drop for Taos and an opponent, to be determined, at 8:45 p.m. Friday (March 2).
Alhough unlikely, Taos could run into Los Alamos in the tournament, and the North Star would be up for grabs again. If a “pure division” game is organized, meaning players exclusively from the Los Alamos School District and Taos Municipal School District are on each team’s respective rosters, it could provide one more chance for the Hilltoppers to acquire the prize.