An unusual scene was unfolding on Wednesday afternoon at Nassau Coliseum. Two 11-year-old boys, one from Finland and another from Japan were teaching each other a new language…in English.
That can only mean one thing, the New York Islanders annual Lighthouse Tournament is under way.
The tournament brings teams from Europe and Asia to Long Island to compete against local teams for medals and international bragging rights on professional ice. The teams come from different countries, speak different languages, but have a shared passion -hockey.
“I’ve been playing with kids in Japan all the time and it’s really different to see other countries with a different style,” Max Lee, a Japanese left-winger said. “And at the hotel we’ve already been making Finnish friends.”
A skills competition kicked off the festivities on Wednesday, including a fastest team event, featuring five players per squad, a puck-relay competition, a timed breakaway event, and a 2-on-0 scoring competition.
“I was very impressed with some of the kid’s skill level,” Mike Lang, one of the head Iceworks instructors said. “I thought the kids had a really good time.”
In the past, the skills competition has been the wrap-up event, but this year, it’s in the leadoff position, for the international teams.
“I think they [the kids] are just getting acclimated with being in a different country and it was good for them to get out and do the skills first,” Lang said. “It gets their legs under them, it gets them acclimated to playing at the Coliseum which can be a little intimidating. I think they are going to have a real good time this week.”
Henri Ekman of the Finland 1 team was taking everything in, from scoring a couple goals in the competition, to the arena, to being in New York for the first time.
“It’s a big city. Everything is big,” he said. “It [the Coliseum] was the best ice that I’ve ever been on.”
Day 1 Recap: Game 1 – Finland 1 vs. Japan Japan jumped out to an early lead, going up 4-1 on Finland after the first period. The resilient Finns battled back in the second period, resulting in a 5-4 Japan lead heading into the third period. Justus Kunnusmaki of Finland scored with 51 seconds remaining to complete the comeback and tie the game at 7.
Game 2 – Nassau Islanders vs. Nassau Lions The Islanders won the battle of Nassau, 7-2, over the Lions in Wednesday’s afternoon action. Defenseman Max Evans of Oyster Bay scored a hat-trick for the Islanders and Harry Nicolas of Westbury had two goals and an assist.
Game 3 – Finland 2 vs. Suffolk The second Finnish team and Suffolk hooked up for Wednesday’s late game. Finland had the most dominant performance of the day, winning 14-1. Jere Turunen scored six goals and added two assists for an eight-point afternoon. Banteri Tahranainen had a hand in three of Turunen’s goals, finishing with two goals and four assists as well.