By Jenelyn Russo
Honda Center played host to a different kind of hockey last Saturday, as 350 fourth-graders from 24 local schools gathered in the arena’s parking lot for the eighth annual Anaheim Ducks S.C.O.R.E. Street Hockey Shootout. And the event saw a familiar champion return to the winner's circle, as now seven-time champ Friends Christian School of Yorba Linda avenged its loss in last year's final.
The tournament is the main event of the season for the club’s S.C.O.R.E. (Scholastic Curriculum of Recreation & Education) street hockey program, where 4,500 fourth grade students at 45 Southern California schools are learning and playing street hockey as a part of their physical education curriculum.
The event kicked off with round-robin play between six groups of teams across eight rinks. Family and friends from each school were well-represented as they cheered the students on throughout the tournament.
|Seven-time champion Friends Christian captured the S.C.O.R.E. Cup after losing in the final last year. |
Friends Christian came into the day looking to reclaim the S.C.O.R.E. Shootout title after losing in the championship game last year to Davis Magnet School of Costa Mesa.
After some tight games in the semifinal round, Friends Christian made their way back to the championship game, narrowly defeating Grace Lutheran School of Huntington Beach in a shootout to advance to the final.
There they faced Stoneybrooke Christian of San Juan Capistrano, in what was the school’s first appearance in the final game. Friends Christian dominated, soundly taking back the S.C.O.R.E. Cup with a 7-0 win, making it seven championships for the school in the last eight years.
Friends Christian head coach, Darren Berezowski, says that while the team enjoys winning, that's not where he and the players draw their motivation.
“I actually say that what I enjoy the most about this tournament is the spectacular event that it is,” says Berezowski. “It's so much fun. Our kids come in here with an expectation that they're going to have a great time, and they do, every year.”
Carden Academy of Mission Viejo went on to defeat Grace Lutheran for third place, while Star View Elementary of Midway City finished at the top of the Consolation Bracket ahead of runner-up St. Irenaeus Parish School of Cypress.
The festivities came to a close during an afternoon awards ceremony where medals and trophies were handed out to the top schools. S.C.O.R.E. Shootout Champion, Friends Christian, was presented with the S.C.O.R.E. Cup, which will be engraved with the players’ names and will remain at the school until next year’s tournament. The team will also be recognized during “S.C.O.R.E. Night” next season at an Anaheim Ducks game.
Friends Christian player, Dylan Graham, was selected as the tournament’s MVP, with six goals and four assists on the day, and received a framed autographed Ducks jersey signed by the team.
“It felt good,” says Graham of being able to help bring the championship title back to his school. “It’s really cool being here.”
|“Most of these kids had never picked up a hockey stick before this year, but they get to come out here and have the time of their lives. And introducing them to hockey through this program has inspired several of our students to continue on and play roller and ice hockey as well.” |
For Graham and many of his teammates, the Ducks S.C.O.R.E. street hockey program is the first time these fourth-graders are exposed to the sport of hockey.
“Most of these kids had never picked up a hockey stick before this year, but they get to come out here and have the time of their lives,” says Berezowski. “And introducing them to hockey through this program has inspired several of our students to continue on and play roller and ice hockey as well.”
Funded by the Anaheim Ducks Foundation, the program provides a full set of street hockey equipment and training for physical education instructors, along with a 10-day curriculum, all at no cost to participating schools.
A native of Canada, Berezowski recognizes the commitment level of the Ducks organization to growing the sport locally through the S.C.O.R.E. program, which reaches 29,000 local students at 300 schools annually through several initiatives such as the street hockey curriculum.
“I’ve been around hockey all of my life, but nobody holds a candle to the Ducks,” says Berezowski. “They give like crazy and they support to build hockey. It inspires a lot of kids.”
For more information on the award-winning Anaheim Ducks S.C.O.R.E. program, visit ducksscore.com.