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Nothing better than hockey in July

by Brittany Cole / New York Islanders
Temperatures were rising high into the 80’s, but that didn’t stop fans from flocking to Nassau Coliseum to catch a glimpse of the Islanders prospects in the 2011 Blue & White Scrimmage.

Isles fans from all over Long Island escaped the heat and were in attendance to cheer on the organization’s top prospects and camp invites Saturday night. To be exact, 5,235 fans watched the Blue Team top the White Team in a sudden-death shootout. For fans, it didn’t get much better than that.

Rob and Jennifer Weisse of Middle Island love the idea of hockey being played in the Coliseum during the summer and wish there was more of it.

“I think summer hockey is great,” said Rob Weisse. “All-year hockey is great. I thought it was a really good game. It was great to see so many of the young players. The future definitely looks bright.”

Weisse and his wife weren’t the only fans who felt that way.

Robert Avitto of Lindenhurst thinks the future of the team is in good hands based off what he saw from the prospects during the game and is looking forward to watching the players grow with the organization.

“There are a lot of players with potential,” Avitto said. “Ryan Strome showed me a lot. (Kirill) Kabanov showed me a lot. Even guys that we don’t know showed us a lot. I think they’re going to be in very good shape.”

Strome, the Isles 2011 fifth overall pick, showed fans a lot of what he can do. His highlight of the night included a spin-o-rama, between the legs goal during the individual breakaway challenge. His goal was the only one scored during the challenge, but Kabanov added a highlight-reel shot of his own.

“The breakaway challenge was very impressive,” said Avitto. “That shot that Strome did was awesome and then the one Kabanov did on top of that was an unbelievable move.”

Weisse, who was also very impressed by Strome, added that Strome’s friendship with Isles forward John Tavares adds to the anticipation of getting him suited up in an Islanders uniform.

“Strome looks really good,” Weisse said. “He looks really exciting. The fact that he already works out with Tavares and is friends with him is a really good thing and good for the future. He looks like a really good player.”

For what many fans said looked like a “stacked” Blue Team, which included Strome, Kabanov and Nino Niederreiter, the Islanders 2010 fifth overall pick – all on the same line – it was the White Team that was on the board early and often in the scrimmage portion of the night’s events.

The White team looked like it was cruising to a win, but Blue rallied to cut the White lead to 6-5, keeping Blue within striking distance before heading into the Skills Competition.

On a Saturday night in July, 5,235 fans came out to watch their Islanders prospects play in the Blue & White Scrimmage and Skills Competition.
“My wife thinks it was fixed,” Weisse joked about his wife Jennifer. “She felt the Blue Team was heavily stacked with their roster, so she was rooting for the White Team.”

He added, “Skills competitions are always so much fun. Watching goalies make saves like that, when it’s one-on-one, it’s awesome.”

The Skills Competition went back and forth, with each team grabbing points during the different events. It was the Blue Team that came out on top after the team breakaway challenge.

After the game concluded, fans were treated to an autograph session that included all players who participated in the game. For young Isles fan, Nicholas Azofeifa, who was anxiously awaiting autographs from all the prospects, it was the team’s mentors and current Islanders players that highlighted his night.

“I got autographs from (Travis) Hamonic, Matt Martin, Kevin Poulin and (Mikko) Koskinen,” the 10-year-old Azofeifa said. “The game was awesome. I had a lot of fun.”

Fans young and old agreed that summer hockey is as hot as the beach and needs to continue in the future. With all of the buzz about the game, skills competition and autograph signings, fans still couldn’t resist talking about the Aug. 1 referendum.

“I don’t live in Nassau County, I live in Suffolk county, but I’m telling everyone I know to vote on Aug. 1,” Avitto said. “We want to keep the Islanders here for a long time. We want to get a new building here. Hopefully, the vote will go that way and keep them here for a very long time.

For now, the temperature still can’t keep the hockey fans away.
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