It took 72 street hockey games played on 10 rinks by 470 fourth graders from 32 local schools, but at the end of a long tournament day at Honda Center last weekend, one champion was crowned as Beechwood School in Fullerton secured their second consecutive S.C.O.R.E. Shootout title.
The Anaheim Ducks 12th annual S.C.O.R.E. Street Hockey Shootout Tournament presented by Chick-fil-A welcomed the nearly 500 students along with their coaches and families for a day of street hockey as the coed teams competed for the chance to hoist the S.C.O.R.E. Cup.
The tournament is the final event of the S.C.O.R.E. (Scholastic Curriculum of Recreation & Education) Street Hockey program where more than 17,000 students across 75 Southern California schools were able to learn the sport of hockey on their school campuses this year as part of their physical education classes. With support from the Anaheim Ducks Foundation, the Ducks provide full curriculum and hockey equipment through the program for free to participating schools.
The morning began with the 32 schools each playing three games in round-robin play. Five of the schools competing this year were first-time participants in the tournament, including St. Linus School of Norwalk. Led by St. Linus Athletic Director and coach Elena Delgado, the Lions are in their first year utilizing the S.C.O.R.E. Street Hockey program at the school.
"The curriculum that we were provided was very thorough and exactly what a P.E. teacher needs," Delgado said. "It was thoughtful of P.E. teachers and how they would implement it. It made it a lot easier for me to deliver to the kids, especially in our first year."
St. Linus won their first game in the round-robin portion and Lions players Trisha and Izel, both new to street hockey, enjoyed playing and learning a new sport.
"It was really fun to learn [hockey] with all of my classmates," Trisha said. "Ms. Delgado makes it fun and easy to learn. It was a really great experience."
"I got really nervous, but when we won our first game, I actually had fun doing it," Izel said. "I've gotten better in my skills. I'm pretty happy."
Although St. Linus did not advance out of the preliminary round, Delgado was proud of how her students embraced street hockey so quickly and with such enthusiasm.
"They were so pumped to be here," Delgado said. "I've seen them play other sports, but this took it to another level. I know they really put their heart into it, so it's really great to see. Considering it's our first time, I'm really happy. I got to see these kids grow and develop in new skills that they never have done before. It's an awesome opportunity."
After the round robin games were complete, 16 teams moved on to the championship bracket, where the teams were split into the Selanne Conference and the Kariya Conference as they continued to battle for the S.C.O.R.E. Cup.
The students from longtime S.C.O.R.E. participant Hermosa Drive Elementary in Fullerton were playing in the tournament with heavy hearts as they learned just days prior that one of the school's students, a fifth grader named Sebastian, was killed in a car accident. Well-liked and a friend of many of the Hermosa Drive street hockey players, the team dedicated their play in the tournament to his memory.
"The kids decided amongst themselves that they were going to play for Sebastian," said Hermosa Drive head coach Marcie Stanislaw. "They all wrote Sebastian's name on their hands, and then spontaneously at the end of the game, without any encouragement from me, they put their hands in and yelled, 'Sebastian!' We decided that this tournament was for him."
Hermosa Drive advanced to the championship round but lost a tight quarterfinal contest 1-0 to St. Junipero Serra Catholic School of Rancho Santa Margarita. Hermosa Drive player, Josh, was one of the students who suggested that he and his teammates write Sebastian's name on their hands as a way to help process the loss of their friend.
"We all got together and decided to do things for Sebastian because he was one of our really good friends and so we would have something to play for," Josh said. "We were thinking if we were going to be doing this for Sebastian, we should have something to remind us. So we put [his name] on our hands to help us."
After the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds were complete, it was on to the conference finals where Beechwood faced Serra Catholic School in the Kariya Conference Final, while Friends Christian School of Yorba Linda battled Davis Magnet School of Costa Mesa in the Selanne Conference Final. Beechwood defeated Serra Catholic 3-0 and Friends Christian beat Davis Magnet 5-0 to advance to the championship game.
After Beechwood went up 3-0 at the half, Friends Christian battled back to make it a close game, scoring two quick goals to bring the score to 3-2 with about five minutes left to play. But Beechwood remained strong and scored an empty net goal in the final minutes to secure the school's back-to-back S.C.O.R.E. Shootout championship by a score of 4-2.
"The excitement from last year's win generated a lot of excitement this year," said Beechwood coach and physical education teacher, Kurt Koerth. "We trained real hard, and the kids sacrificed their lunch times and spent a lot of time working together as a team. We lost one of our first games this morning, and there were a lot of tears. So we really had to put ourselves back together and refocus."
Beechwood player John Hertzberg was selected as the 2019 S.C.O.R.E. Shootout Championship Game MVP and expressed how important his teammates were to the victory.
"I couldn't have done it without the other kids," John said. "All the kids put in effort, and everyone helped out. All hands were on deck, and we all did really well. It's a team effort."
In addition to the MVP award, every participating team selected one player who exhibited outstanding sportsmanship during the tournament to receive a S.C.O.R.E. Shootout Sportsmanship Award. Each of the 32 award recipients will be invited to participate in a future showcase game to celebrate their efforts.
With only one player on Beechwood's team to have had any prior hockey experience, Koerth was grateful for the support of the Ducks and the opportunity to expose his students to a new sport.
"Honestly, I think that every professional sports organization should follow the lead of the Anaheim Ducks," Koerth said. "The way that they reach out to their community and the way they provide the resources, the training and support…they are a Class A organization."
For more information about the Anaheim Ducks S.C.O.R.E. program, visit ducksscore.com.