Three days of intense competition finally came to an end Saturday afternoon with the Long Island Icecats winning the first annual Charles B. Wang Project Hope Cup. Led by two goals by Nicholas Mangone from Massapequa Park and Matthew Bernot, the Icecats skated away with the victory over the Bridgeport Riverhawks, who took second place. Icecat goalies Harris Pittinsky from Long Beach and Ralph DiSpigna from Huntington combined for a shutout.
"It was a great accomplishment to get everyone together for this tournament," said Icecats coach Tom Cairo. "We played against three tough teams, and I'm proud of boys. The team from China definitely took us by surprise the way they played the game. They were an excellent team."
Arguably, the most exciting game of the tournament took place first, when the Westchester Mariners played against the QiQihar Snow Leopards. Heading into the third period, the Mariners held a 4-1 lead behind Martin Bartoszewicz of Yonkers, Joey Ramondelli of New Rochelle, Matthew Porto of Harrison and Mark Umbro of New Rochelle.
But like they did in their first game against Westchester, QiQihar battled back. Li Hang completed his second hat trick of the tournament by converting on a penalty shot to tie the game at four. Less than a minute later, Umbro scored his second goal of the game from a sharp angle to give the Mariners a 5-4 victory. Vinny Scorese held off a late QiQihar surge to preserve the victory for Westchester.
Prior to the medal games, all four teams competed in a friendly skills competition. The four events consisted of the fastest skater, accuracy shooting, the hardest shot and the shootout competition.
Porto of the Mariners was the fastest skater, while QiQihar's Zheng Canji came in second. In the hardest shot competition, the Mariners' Bartoszewicz fired a 60 mph slapshot to claim first, while Bridgeport's Nick Blake had the second fastest shot. The accuracy shooting competition saw Bridgeport's Sean Curry win first prize and the Icecats' Jeremy Berger take second place. Finally, in the shootout competition, Icecats goaltender DiSpigna defeated teammate Pittinsky in the final round.
The day continued with a very classy trophy presentation at the Marriott hotel. There, all four teams received medals for their accomplishments. Before that, the three local teams: Bridgeport, Long Island and Westchester each presented $1,000 donations to Project Hope.
After dinner, all four teams watched and cheered for the Islanders against the New Jersey Devils with complimentary tickets. QiQihar stood on the ice with the Islanders during the national anthem, and skated in a shootout between periods.
Throughout the dinner and the game, all the players were inter-mingling between the teams, especially with the QiQihar team. A sense of unity was created through the week of competition.
"It was an exceptional tournament," said Project Hope Director Angela Ruggiero. "The kids seemed like they enjoyed themselves, and the tournament is only going to grow. I saw the American kids teaching the QiQihar kids some American practices and vice-versa. I'm excited that everyone had a smile on their face at the end of the day."
* QiQiHAR YOUTH TEAM ARRIVES!
* QiQiHAR TAKES MANHATTAN
* A VICTORY FOR QiQiHAR!
* LONG ISLAND & BPORT SKATE FOR GOLD