"It's always exciting on championship day," said Director of Amateur Hockey Development Dan Bedard. "We had close and well played games with great goaltending and a great effort on everyone's part. It was truly an international event in all aspects of it."
The Championship game saw Qiqihar—from China--and Nassau dual in a close game that was decided by one goal. Liu Qing scored the only goal, helping Qiqihar to a 1-0 victory after placing second at last year's tournament. Xui Wen Hao earned the shutout for Qiqihar.
"This time everything has improved--our skill and our practicing," said Qiqihar coach Hou Wen Xi. "Now we feel we can compete with the American teams. Our team feels pretty good. We are getting better and better. When we go back, we will be encouraged to work even harder."
The championship game followed an even closer game between New York City and Ilves. Playing for third place, New York City took a 2-0 lead into the third period, but the highly-skilled team from Finland tied the game, sending it into overtime. After a scoreless extra period, a shootout decided the victor. The first six shooters all scored, sending the game into a fourth round. New York City goaltender Dominick Grisanzio stopped the fourth Ilves shooter, allowing John O'Brien, Jr. to score the winner for a 3-2 victory.
"This was my first shootout in a real game," said O'Brien, Jr. I was scared and nervous before I shot. However, I did think about my move before I shot. I learned from the previous shooters that their goalie tried to poke-check, so you had to deke towards the boards and get far out. On the bench we were all really nervous, but Dom kept us in it. It was pretty unbelievable. After they tied it up, we said we needed to pick it up. We knew we needed to win the game."
The day began with the fifth-place game pitting rivals Harbin--from China--against Japan. It was the first matchup between a Chinese team and the Japanese team at the tournament and it turned out to be a good one. Despite scoring only two goals in the first three games of the tournament, Japan jumped out to an early 2-0 lead on Saturday. Harbin ultimately fought back and came away with an 8-4 victory to claim fifth place.
Following the conclusion of the championship game, GM Garth Snow and Islanders President Chris Dey presented Nassau and Qiqihar with medals, which they wore proudly to Saturday's Islanders game at the Coliseum.
All eight teams participated in the flag ceremony before the Islanders game and during the first intermission. Fans stood and cheered as each team was announced.
"You have that pride of being from your country and representing your country whether it's at the Olympics or a pee wee hockey game," said Bedard. "There's no greater pride than wearing your country on the front of your jersey. You saw that throughout the games. The coaches and management made sure that even when the games became competitive that they maintained sportsmanship all along."
While the Lighthouse International Tournament may have come to a close, the international teams will be on Long Island for a few more days. The rest of the week's activities include a trip to New York City on Sunday and friendship games on Monday, with new teams being formed with players from each of the international teams.
"We had wonderful help from people within the Islanders organization, the visiting teams and local hockey organizations," said Bedard. "It's a learning experience for everyone having jumped from four teams last year to eight this year. Everyone is excited about next year. We're looking forward to expanding the tournament to 12-16 teams. It's going to be bigger and better."
TOWN OF HEMPSTEAD HONORED
On Saturday night, the Islanders hosted Town of Hempstead Night, presented by the Lighthouse at Long Island and Covanta, at the Nassau Coliseum. As part of the celebration, Town of Hempstead representative Don Clavin dropped the ceremonial first puck with the faceoff between Bill Guerin and Jamie Langenbrunner.
"The Islanders are a mainstay in the Town of Hempstead and Long Island," said Clavin. "We have a great relationship with them to reach their goals for a new arena and the Lighthouse Project. The Town of Hempstead is in close communication with Charles Wang because we want the Islanders to stay. They are who we are. You don't want to lose a team like the Islanders. They are from Long Island and the Town of Hempstead." COAT DRIVE AT THE COLISEUM
With the winter in full swing, the Islanders held a coat drive on Saturday at the Nassau Coliseum. More than 100 coats were collected that will go to The Inn in Hempstead. Anyone who donated a coat received a ticket voucher to the Islanders-Colorado game on March 2. Additional reporting by Greg Picker Click here
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