Thornton Academy News

TAMS student Eli Pendergrass skates to glory playing for a US National hockey team in South Korea

Seventh grader Eli Pendergrass’s favorite memory of his recent trip to South Korea was skating onto the ice wearing a jersey for the United States. Pendergrass played for a US National Youth hockey team in the Goyang U-12 International Hockey Tournament in Seoul, South Korea from January 19-21, 2018.  

“When we played against the Russians, our jerseys looked just like the ones from Miracle on Ice.  It was so cool to feel like that!” Eli says.


Eli Pendergrass '23 stands with his coaches and players from the Korean National team at the Goyang U-12 tournament in Seoul, South Korea.

Eli Pendergrass '23 stands with his coaches and players from the Korean National team at the Goyang U-12 tournament in Seoul, South Korea. 


Eli has been playing hockey since he was four years old. He currently plays on the Seacoast Spartans, a club team out of Exeter, New Hampshire. His selection for the national U-12 team came from his experience with the Spartans.


Even though he normally plays forward, Eli played defense during the Goyang tournament. Despite this, he scored twelve goals over eight games.


Pendergrass balances a busy hockey schedule with his studies at Thornton Academy Middle School, where he is currently in seventh grade.  He is consistently on the honor roll.  


Eli’s mother, Dawn Pendergrass, was able to travel with the team and watch her son compete in the tournament. For her, it was a memorable trip.


“So few parents ever get to see their child wear a Team USA jersey and compete representing their country. I felt incredibly proud and blessed to be able to share in that small moment with Eli. I have to admit, I got a little choked up when he was down on the ice and the first few bars of The Star Spangled Banner played in the arena.  He has worked extremely hard for the last eight years to improve as a hockey player and I am gratified to see his effort rewarded with opportunity to play against countries like Russia, Canada and Korea.  It was something I wish every parent has the chance to experience,” Dawn says.  


The tournament was held in Seoul, South Korea. Between games, Eli, his mother, and the rest of the team were able to do some sight-seeing. They visited temples, tried new foods, and made friends from all over the world.

Team USA


“The streets were packed. It was very busy, but the side streets were calm. Luckily, there was English underneath most of the signs!” Eli says.


Eli hopes to continue his hockey career and play hockey in college. As for dreams of playing in the actual Olympic Games, he has experience that not many players his age have been fortunate enough to gain.