By Jason Lockhart
The QiQihar Snow Leopards had a successful close to the first day of the Charles B. Wang Project Hope Cup. Sparked by captain Zhang Cheng's five-goal performance, the Chinese youth team defeated the Westchester Mariners Thursday afternoon, 9-7.
QiQihar was resilient, falling behind 4-1 and 6-4, but four straight goals, starting in the second period, put the Snow Leopards up for good. Cheng got things going in the first period with three goals in the first period for the Chinese team that traveled more than 6,000 miles to compete in the tournament.
After one period of play the Snow Leopards found themselves down 4-3, but they were not done fighting. The Mariners took a 6-4 lead in the second period, but QiQihar took over the rest of the game. Cheng added two more and defenseman Zhang Shuchao added two as well to put QiQihar up for good. Shuchao was a force on defense all game and Wang Han earned the win for QiQihar.
"We were a little tired in the first game," said Cheng, referring to their opening loss to the Long Island Icecats in the morning, "but we had more energy in the second game. We finally got used to the rink in the second game. It feels good to score five goals and win. We'll be even better tomorrow."
In between games, the Islanders practiced at Iceworks to a large crowd of more than a thousand people coming to watch the tournament and see the Islanders practice. Bruno Gervais and Chris Campoli spoke to the QiQihar kids in the locker room. Gervais and Campoli encouraged them to have fun on the ice, and also talked about some lighter topics, asking the kids if they had girlfriends. Most of the kids shouted "no."
"It's a great opportunity for these kids to come here," said Gervais, who was taught how to say "Good Luck" in Mandarin. "They look like they're having a lot of fun, and I wish them the best of luck."
The words of Campoli and Gervais must have inspired the QiQihar kids that had some jump in their step against Westchester. In the other two games, the Long Island Icecats defeated the Bridgeport Riverhawks, and Bridgeport was victorious over Westchester.
News 12 and TV 55 were on hand to watch the opening of the first annual Charles B. Wang Project Hope Cup.
The day wasn't over for the QiQihar team after their victory. At dinner in the Marriott each member of the team was presented with brand new equipment donated by Reebok. The kids, who had been searching the gift shop all day for new equipment, were surprised and elated by the gifts.
"It was a successful day for Project Hope, with the official kick-off of our tournament" said Director of Project Hope, Angela Ruggiero. "All the kids in the tournament, including the kids from QiQihar had smiles on their faces all day. We have four great teams competing this year.
"It was very generous of Reebok to make that donation. The officials were very grateful and the kids were elated. I'm just glad that everyone had a good day, and I look forward to another good one tomorrow."
Friday morning, the Project Hope Cup continues at Iceworks with the Long Island Icecats taking on the Westchester Mariners at 9 am, followed by QiQihar and Bridgeport at 10:30. The semi-finals will pit the first place team from the round-robin against the fourth place team at 1:30 pm. The other semi-final will be played at 3 pm.
* QiQiHAR YOUTH TEAM ARRIVES!
* QiQiHAR TAKES MANHATTAN