Honda Center played host last week to a faceoff between the ice hockey teams from Servite High School and Santa Margarita Catholic High School, with Santa Margarita coming away with the win in the exhibition game, 6-2.
Participants in the Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League (ADHSHL), the Friars and the Eagles took the ice following the Anaheim Ducks game that same night versus the Nashville Predators, where the Ducks came out on top with a 4-2 win.
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The games were a part of the first-ever Catholic Night at Honda Center, as fans came out to watch the NHL game and then stayed for the ADHSHL game between the two rivals. Santa Margarita has two teams in the league, at the Varsity Division 1 and Division 3 levels, while Servite fields one team in Varsity Division 3.
Father Christopher Smith, rector at Christ Cathedral and long time Anaheim Ducks fan, welcomed the crowd that stayed for the high school game and offered a blessing over the schools and their players prior to puck drop.
In the exhibition game format, the teams played two 30-minute halves in what was the first meeting between the two schools this season. Santa Margarita controlled most of the play in the first half, as junior forward Gregory Bennett kicked off the scoring for the Eagles, putting his team up early 1-0. Sophomore Nicolas Mauthe added a tally and senior goaltender for the Eagles Jack Hardwick kept the Friars scoreless as Santa Margarita led at the end of the first half, 3-0.
In the second half, Servite was able to get two goals past Santa Margarita senior goaltender Dylan Gluck, including one from Friars forward Luc Cross, but the Eagles remained dominant on both ends of the ice. Senior forward Cavin McClare scored the sixth goal for Santa Margarita on the night, as the Eagles captain helped to lead his team to a win with a final score of 6-2.
“You know, the boys were working hard down low,” said McClare, describing his goal. “I was up top, and [I received] a pass, and I threw it in the net, fortunately.”
Santa Margarita head coach Craig Johnson liked what he saw in his players on the ice that night.
“I thought we moved the puck better than we have in the past week,” said Johnson, “and I thought we skated real well today, too.”
The Eagles Division 3 team will square off against Servite later in the season in league play, and Johnson will be looking for his players to focus on their own effort, without looking too closely at the standings or stats of their opponent.
“Every time we come, we just try to compete hard, work as hard as we can,” said Johnson. “We control what we deal with, and we don’t worry about the other teams.”
The Anaheim Ducks launched the ADHSHL (adhshl.com) back in July of 2008 with JSerra Catholic High School as their charter member. In 2009, Santa Margarita joined the league and Servite added a team in the 2010-11 season.
Having added seven new teams for the 2015-16 season, including a team from Mater Dei High School, the league now fields 48 teams from 41 high schools in five divisions. The Anaheim Ducks will continue to provide financial support for each team involved in the program.
Johnson, who played 10 seasons in the NHL, including 39 games with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim during the 2003-04 season, led the Eagles to a USA Hockey High School National Championship in 2013. Santa Margarita made another strong showing in 2015 as the silver medal recipient in the National Championship Tournament.
Johnson was also tapped to be the assistant coach for the U.S. Men’s Select Team in the 2015 Deutschland Cup, where the United States will take on teams from Germany, Slovakia and Switzerland in the tournament held in Augsburg, Germany from November 6-8, 2015.
Being able to play a game on the same ice as NHL teams and hockey heroes was the opportunity of a lifetime for many of the players from both schools.
“It’s great for the kids,” said Johnson. “Any time we get to play at Honda Center they’re excited about it, and you can see the energy.”
Regardless of the outcome, McClare and his teammates knew this was a highly anticipated game and soaked in all the experience had to offer from start to finish.
“It’s huge. We’ve been excited about this for weeks,” said McClare of the chance to play hockey at Honda Center. “They had posters up at school. People [came] out to see us. It’s awesome.”