By Jason Lockhart
On Thursday, Islanders Iceworks was the site of the first Charles B. Wang Project Hope Cup medal round. The Syosset arena was once again packed to watch four pee wee teams, including the QiQihar Snow Leopards from China, compete in the international tournament. Once the dust settled on a full-day of hockey, the Long Island Icecats and Bridgeport Riverhawks were ticketed for the Cup final, held tomorrow at the Nassau Coliseum.
The first two games of the day were the final round-robin games, with the medal round beginning in the afternoon. The 9 am game saw the Icecats continue their strong play by defeating the Westchester Mariners. Michael Vaiano from Seaford and Anthony Mangone from Massapequa Park both notched two goals and added an assist, while Albert Markopoulos from Floral Park added a goal and two assists.
The second game saw the Bridgeport Riverhawks skate past the QiQihar Snow Leopards. Nick Blakem out of Shelton, Connecticut led the way for Bridgeport with two goals. But the star of the game was QiQihar's Li Hang, who completed a hat trick on the power play with 6:51 remaining in the third period. Hang's second tally was the goal of the tournament as he raced from end-to-end, twisting and turning around defenders until firing a shot home. A late surge by QiQihar wasn't enough to overcome Bridgeport.
Like Wednesday, the day was broken up by an Islanders practice, with many of the tournament players getting their fill, receiving autographs from the Islanders. After the practice, it was back to the competition.
The medal round saw the same teams duke it out for a spot in the final, tomorrow at the Nassau Coliseum. Long Island earned the top spot in the semi-finals and played Westchester, while Bridgeport took on QiQihar. The results were the same, with Long Island defeating Westchester and Bridgeport winning over QiQihar.
"It's been a fun tournament so far," said Icecat Michael Kirk. "It's been really cool to play against a team from China. The pace in that game was a little faster than usual. It's been hard to communicate with them off the ice, but it's still been fun."
By winning their semi-final games, Long Island and Bridgeport will meet in the Gold Medal game at 2:45 pm on Friday, at the Nassau Coliseum. QiQihar and Westchester will face-off at 1 pm for the bronze.
Prior to the medal games, a skills competition will be held at 8 am on the Coliseum ice, with all four teams competing.
* QiQiHAR YOUTH TEAM ARRIVES!
* QiQiHAR TAKES MANHATTAN
* A VICTORY FOR QiQiHAR!