By Chris Botta and Jason Lockhart
The Westchester Mariners took home the Pee Wee Championship Trophy of the International Division of the Lighthouse Tournament, defeating Qiqihar, China 6-2. Joe Ramondelli scored two third-period goals to ice the game that was close throughout. Sergio Maspons picked up the win, allowing only two goals.
"This entire experience of the Lighthouse Tournament was something my players, their parents and I will treasure forever," said Westchester head coach Tim Collins. "The scope of what Islanders put together this week was phenomenal. I’m proud of my team for winning our division, of course, but I would have been proud of them no matter the outcome. It was a privilege to be part of this."
After finishing in fourth place of last year's Project Hope invitational, Qiqihar showed vast improvement this year, going 2-1-0 in round-robin play to reach the Championship game. Two players in particular showed impressive skills on Qiqihar, Zhang Shuchao and Liu Qing. Shuchao led the tournament with eight goals, while Qing scored six in four games.
"I would be remiss if I didn’t say how impressed I was with the two teams from China that are part of Project Hope," continued Collins. "They play with lots of passion, lots of pride and you can tell how the skill level has grown in the few years since Project Hope started. I especially want to congratulate our opponents today from Qiqihar for making it to the Final. They were a very tough opponent. I didn’t feel we had the game won until the final buzzer."
After one period of play in today's Championship game, the score was tied at one on goals by Joey Pichiarallo and Shuchao. In the second period, the Mariners took a 3-1 lead before Shuchao cut the lead to 3-2 on a beautiful end-to-end rush.
But in the third, it was all Mariners, who scored three goals to increase their lead to 6-2. Maspons shut the door in the third, allowing no goals.
In the stands watching the Westchester-Qiqihar battle were the other participants in the Pee Wee International Division, Harbin from China and Ilves from Finland. Despite being out of the tournament, the family members of the Ilves team were waving their team flags throughout the game, cheering on their competitors.
"On behalf of everyone with the Westchester Mariners, I want to thank Charles Wang and the New York Islanders for the hospitality they showed our organization," said Collins. "I met Mr. Wang at the Project Hope Banquet last night and I was blown away by his generosity and class. We will never forget this weekend with the Islanders."