TAOS, NM - The Coronado T-Birds will have to play their way back Sunday after dropping a heartbreaking 4-3 game Saturday night that would have given them a slot in the state championship next weekend.
T-Birds gave up three goals in the first six minutes of their showdown with Albuquerque ice hockey power Cibola. Freshman goaltendender Sean Barker came on in relief of Kelsi Byrd, and promptly surrendered another first period goal to put Cibola up 4-0 before clamping down the rest of the way.
Barker had been named the New Mexico Interscholastic Ice Hockey League's top goaltender at an awards banquet earlier in the day. T-Bird coach Tom Herman was named coach of the year.
Coronado finally got on the board with eight seconds remaining in the first period, then added another goal in the second period, before drawing within a goal, 4-3, with six minutes remaining in the game. The T-Birds killed back to back penalties, including a brief 5 on 3 advantage for Cibola, but by the time they got momentum back time was running out.
A furious final two minutes was played mostly in the Cibola zone, with several shots on goal, including one that glanced off the crossbar.
Cibola will play in the state final next weekend in Santa Fe. Coronado is still alive, with one loss in the double elimination tournament. They play at noon Sunday against the winner of a morning matchup between Albuquerque schools St. Pius and La Cueva.
The T-Birds beat La Cueva Saturday, 5-1. St. Pius lost an overtime thriller to Cibola Saturday, 2-1. That game was 1-1 after regulation time expired. An overtime period was scoreless, and the teams went nine players deep into a shootout before Cibola scored the decisive goal.