On Tuesday afternoon, the Pee Wee Islanders competed against their Rangers counterparts at Madison Square Garden for a tune-up game. The Rangers defeated the Islanders 7-4 in a hard-fought contest.
The Rangers took a quick 2-0 lead in the first period, but the Islanders countered to tie the game with a goal in the first period by Chris Seeback and the equalizer in the second period by Ryan Hitchcock breakaway goal.
The Rangers scored the next five goals before Jeremy Bracco scored two late third-period goals to make it 7-4. The teams will have a rematch at the Nassau Coliseum in January.
"This was an opportunity to play on a big stage," Islanders Director of Amateur Hockey Development Dan Bedard told the team after the game. "When you're in Quebec, you could be playing in front of as many as 10,000 fans. There will be nerves and this was a chance to shake off those nerves. And we'll do it again at the Coliseum."
Also coaching the Pee Wee Islanders on Tuesday were New York Islanders alumni Steve Webb and Benoit Hogue. Both have contributed to helping grow the Islanders' youth hockey program.
"The Pee Wee Islanders program itself is expanding in the talent pool," said Bedard. "More than ever, there has been great attention to coaching with former players like Steve Webb, Benoit Hogue, Eric Cairns, Bobby Nystrom and Gerry Hart playing a role. They have helped better the talent pool on Long Island. Plus, more coaches on Long Island are going to seminars, reading about going coaching and picking up proper knowledge about the game."
The Quebec International Pee Wee Hockey Tournament has featured many future NHL stars, including Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Patrick Roy.
"This tournament is such a wonderful experience for these kids," said Bedard. "It's creates a lifetime memory. They get to live with a French-Canadian family and experience another culture. It says something that Gretzky, Lemieux and Roy all accepted invitations to return for a special old-timer's game this year to mark the 50th anniversary."
The Pee Wee Islanders will be in Quebec City from February 12-21 to take part in the International Pee Wee Tournament.