JSerra High School hockey coach Jeff Noviello may have said it best when he stated, “Who wouldn’t want to play in the Honda Center on the ‘big ice,’ in the ‘big’ arena on the ‘big’ stage?”
The Diocese of Orange and the Anaheim Ducks partnered to host the third annual Catholic Night at the Honda Center on Feb. 9. This year six Orange County Catholic high schools were featured and their participation in the festivities was inspiring.
The night kicked off with a welcoming recorded video message to the sold-out Honda Center crowd from the Rector of Christ Cathedral Parish, Rev. Christopher Smith.
Anaheim’s St. Catherine’s Academy Color Guard presented the Colors as the Mater Dei High School Choir sang the national anthem, along with Dawn Wright.
Following the Ducks/Edmonton NHL game and prior to the start of the high school hockey action, Diocese of Orange Auxiliary Bishop Timothy Freyer paid tribute to the 2017 Rosary Academy basketball team for winning its first California State championship last spring.
“It’s important for all of us to come together to show that we are a viable community; I can feel the excitement just walking around here tonight,” said Bishop Freyer, (a Huntington Beach High alumnus) who also copiloted the Zamboni machine between the second and third periods of the Ducks game.
Rosary Athletic Director Tim Tice and Basketball Coach Richard Yoon, along with his championship team, were on hand to join the historic celebration.
“It’s great for the girls to get the accolades,” said Yoon. “It was our school’s first state championship and it’s a special memory that they’ll have forever.”
Diocese of Orange Bishop Kevin Vann read the ‘Athletes Prayer’ from his SMART phone prior to the Servite and Mater Dei game.
“It’s a great event and more schools are wanting to participate each year; I look forward to it,” said Bishop Vann, who donned a Ducks baseball cap and jacket. “I really enjoy when we come together and share our Catholic values.”
It’s the second consecutive year Bishop Vann has attended “Catholic Night.” He has established a treasured closeness with O.C. high school community. Over the past two years, the Bishop has been a cast member in three stage productions (“Godspell,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” and “Guys and Dolls”) at Santa Margarita Catholic High School and his participation has been heartwarming.
Friday’s festivities included SMCHS’s president Andy Sulick presenting Bishop Vann with a #4 Santa Margarita hockey jersey, signifying he is the fourth Bishop of the Diocese of Orange.
“The Catholic Faith has such a long and rich tradition in our country and when we come together for a unique event such as this, we embrace it,” Sulick said. “We’re telling the global world, we are proud to be Catholic.”
Servite and Mater Dei competed in the first exhibition as the Monarchs, behind goals from Andrew Chang and Joshua Hyden, edged the Friars 2-0.
“It’s overwhelming to be playing on the same ice as the NHL’ers,” said Chang, a junior forward.
In game 2, freshman Marcus Kim scored the lone goal to lead Santa Margarita to a 1-0 victory over JSerra.
“It’s my first time playing here and I was a little nervous but it was a cool experience,” Kim said.
For the players and coaches, the chance to play on the Honda Center ice was priceless.
“Any time a hockey player gets the opportunity to skate in a game situation on the same ice as Hall of Fame players like Teemu Selanne, Scott Neidermeyer, Chris Pronger or Paul Kariya, it adds to the intensity level,” said Mater Dei coach Mark Mollica, who is guiding the Monarchs in their inaugural season of hockey. “I think the coaching staff is as excited as the players.”
“This is an excellent opportunity to grow our schools, the programs and high school hockey,” said Noviello, who coached the Lions to a California State Championship in 2014.
Nancy and Ed Massura from Yorba Linda were in attendance to watch their son, Tucker, compete for Servite.
“It’s our son’s third year playing in this event and it’s a great experience for all of the kids and it’s a perk for a Catholic education.”
Diocese Communications Director Ryan Lilyengren said the event was a huge success and that ‘Catholic Night’ continues to grow.
“I think it’s a great way to get together, have fun, share camaraderie and celebrate the Catholic school system. And to show that Catholics are vibrant in the community,” Lilyengren added.
“Art Trottier, Cindy Frazier and the entire Jr. Ducks Staff, along with League Commissioner Matt Blanchard, work feverishly throughout the year to bring a professional, high-quality hockey product to hundreds of high school students throughout Orange County,” Mollica said. “Without their tireless efforts none of this would be possible.”