The Orange County Laguna Hills Hawks picked quite the time to score their first floor hockey victory over the San Diego El Cajon Gulls this season.
The Hawks prevailed 6-3 in one of three victories Sunday en route to the red division’s gold medal at the 2018 Floor Hockey Championship at The RINKS in Huntington Beach. The vaunted Gulls, who represented Special Olympics Southern California at the 2017 Winter World Games in Austria, claimed the silver.
Hawks goalie Dustin Plunkett recalled dropping a 6-0 decision to the same Gulls team when the season opened. He wondered how he and his teammates could measure up.
“I am just in awe right now that my team and I won the gold medal,” he said. “How the year started for us… I thought it would be a long season.
“It felt like I was watching the movie Miracle.”
— Special Olympics SoCal (@SOSoCal) March 11, 2018
Other notable performances on the day included: Blue division gold medalists the Santa Clarita Sharks edged silver medalists the Pomona Wildcats, 4-3; the Western San Bernardino Comets allowed just two goals in three games and netted a shutout to win gold in the green division; and the Northern Santa Barbara Braves won gold in the purple division, which was the only grouping to not feature an undefeated team at the tournament.
Here are the complete standings in each division:
|Laguna Hills Hawks||Gold medal|
|El Cajon Gulls||Silver medal|
|Bakersfield Thunder||Bronze medal|
|Santa Barbara Dolphins||4th place|
|Santa Clarita Valley Sharks||Gold medal|
|Pomona Wildcats||Silver medal|
|San Luis Obispo Wildcats||Bronze medal|
|Northern Santa Barbara Ducks||4th place|
|Western San Bernardino Comets||Gold medal|
|San Diego Vista Red Wings||Silver medal|
|Santa Clarita Great Whites||Bronze medal|
|Laguna Hills Eagle Hawks||4th place|
|Northern Santa Barbara Braves||Gold medal|
|Santa Barbara Penguins||Silver medal|
|San Luis Obispo Tigers||Bronze medal|
|Santa Clarita Tiger Sharks||4th place|
For athletes like Jessica Simon of the Santa Barbara Penguins, the thrill of competition isn’t the only highlight at championship tournaments. She enjoys her role on the team as a release to “run all over the court.”
That’s because Jessica remembers a time she was approaching close to 300 pounds and had to take a break from competition. Now, she is down to around 135 pounds.
“I have a lot of energy,” Jessica said.
The volunteers and spectators also enjoyed themselves. Among them was Barbara Chu, a member of The RINKS’ street team who also doubles as a hockey coach for special needs athletes.
“It’s really neat to see the progression of the athletes,” Barbara said. “We’ve seen [athletes] come who’ve never played hockey before, and by the end of the season they’re so comfortable with playing and having fun.
“That’s the most fun.”
Special Olympics Southern California intern Sean Minnihan contributed to this report.