Taos Ice Tigers can’t shake those Oso pesky bears from La Cueva

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The Taos Youth and Family Center was brimming with activity and was packed with fans, as two big home events took place at the same time Dec. 3.

Interscholastic and club swimming took place on one side of the complex, while interscholastic hockey occupied the agua fria on the other side. At times, Ice Tigers and Tiger Sharks would come together in the main lobby of the recreation center — one group coming to cool off, the other to warm up. It was a noisy and crowded mix of complete opposites, but undoubtedly the fulfillment of what this facility was meant and dreamt to be — unusual paradox or not.

On the ice, Coach Mark Richert and his Ice Tigers were playing host to the visiting La Cueva Bears. It was Taos’ first home game of the 2016-17 New Mexico Interscholastic Ice Hockey League (NMIIHL) season, and the second meeting of these two teams. In the season opener, Taos played La Cueva at their home rink in Albuquerque, with the Ice Tigers coming away with a 5-4 win Nov. 13.

Taos scored very quickly at the start of the match to take a 1-0 lead, and would keep the pressure up with a barrage of shots on goal throughout the first period. Taos would score again with just under six-minutes left in the period to take a commanding 2-0 lead. “We jumped out with good energy and execution in the first period,” said Richert, noting that the Ice Tigers outshot La Cueva 21-6 in the first stanza. “We were definitely the dominant team for long stretches in the first.”

The second interval saw the Bears catch the Ice Tigers off guard as they struck early to narrow the lead to 2-1 with 14:31 left in the period. It turned into a defensive contest, and the score would stay the same for the remaining time before the long intermission.

The third and final period saw the Ice Tigers return to sporadic dominance – slipping slightly at times as well. Taos gave up a shorthanded tally during a two-man power play that tied the game early in the third period. The Ice Tigers would take advantage of the power play — answering quickly with a goal to regain the lead, 3-2. La Cueva would battle back with a goal later in the period, however, and that was how the game would end.

Senior goalie Max Mount played an outstanding game against the Bears with 20 saves on 23 shots against for the tie. Mount has played every minute for the Ice Tigers so far this year and carries an 84 percent save percentage, with 80 saves on 95 shots. Theo Hummel and Leandro Richert both scored goals for the Ice Tigers and were each credited with an assist on the night. Richert and Hummel are joined by Ysidro Gravelle and Justin “Juice” Lucero with two goals scored by each player on the year. Taos is currently 1-2-1 on the season.

Coach Richert noted that Taos was in control of the game for long periods of time – ultimately outshooting La Cueva 53-23. “We’ll work on eliminating those defensive breakdowns that lead to great scoring chances for the opposition,” said Richert. “A few mental and execution errors allowed La Cueva to remain close or equal on the scoreboard, so we’ll prepare accordingly this week.”

The Ice Tigers are on the road this week and will take on the Odessa Permian Basin Pump Jacks in back-to-back games over the course of two days in Odessa, Texas, Dec. 10-11. Game times are 3 p.m. CST (Dec. 10) and 8:30 a.m. CST (Dec. 11). The Ice Tigers return to the Taos Youth and Family Center for a home game against the Cibola Cougars Dec. 17. Initial face-off time is TBD.

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