International teams from Japan, China and Finland helped make the 2014 Lighthouse International Youth Hockey Tournament a success both on and off the ice.
The tournament, now in its sixth year, allowed youth teams from all over the world to converge on the iconic ice at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Teams from Europe and Asia, as well as local teams from New York, submerged themselves in different cultures and made long-lasting friendships.
“When you see the kids react to being in an NHL arena for the first time, it warms your heart,” said Jocelyne Cummings, manager of amateur hockey development for the New York Islanders.
After three full days of round-robin and playoff hockey, two teams from Finland skated away with the gold and silver medals for the second year in a row. A Chinese team from Harbin won bronze, completing a medal sweep for the international teams.
The three New York teams, two from Long Island and one from Westchester, relished the unique opportunity to play on the same professional ice as the Islanders and make international bonds through hockey. Danny Weight, son of Islanders Assistant Coach Doug Weight, led all American players in scoring with seven points (five goals, two assists).
The action-packed week didn’t stop when the players stepped off the ice. The teams were special guests at Islanders practices. They also got a chance to meet their professional hockey idols and get autographs.
Just as the kids were given the chance to learn from the pros, the pros got a chance to do some learning as well. Islanders’ defensemen Lubomir Visnovsky gave lessons on chipping the puck in exchange for some help learning a few Mandarin words.
For many of the international players, this was their first time in the United States. Between games, many took a tours of New York landmarks. They skated at Rockefeller Center, visited the world-renowned NHL Store, and made a stop over in Brooklyn to see the Brooklyn Nets.
“None of the international players had been to an NBA game before so it was really exciting for them” Cummings added.
Of course, the biggest thrill for the youth hockey players were seats at two Islanders games. The two Finnish finalists, as well as the flag bearers for each team, were honored on the ice during an intermission.
The tournament concluded with a skills competition, a friendly skate and a banquet to celebrate the week and the game that unites us all. With new-found friendships made over the past week, the tournament ended, but the memories will last these kids a lifetime.
Recapping the third day of the 2014 Lighthouse International Youth Hockey Tournament:
China Harbin wins Bronze
China Harbin and China Qiqihar battled for the bronze with Harbin pulling out a 7-4 win. After Qiqihar scored late in the first to open the scoring, Wang Ting of Harbin scored two quick goals. Ting ended the game with a hat trick and two assists. Li Zeyi of Harbin also had a hat trick. The game was tied at four with seven minutes remaining in the third period, but Harbin scored three goals en route to the win.
Nassau holds off Japan
Team Nassau defeated Team Japan 6-5 in the fifth-place contest thanks to a late shorthanded goal by Nate Chatenen. Leading the way for Japan was Shutu Kaneko who scored his team’s first goal and ended the contest with two goals and one assist. In the final two periods, Danny Weight scored four goals to help lead Team Nassau to the win.
All-Finland Championship on Saturday
The tournament wraps up with an all-Finnish final on Saturday afternoon. The two Finnish squads will battle for the gold medal at 4:45, about an hour after the Islanders host the St. Louis Blues. This is the second Finland-Finland finale in the last two editions of the Lighthouse Tournament.
The championship games are set, as the two teams from Finland both advanced to the tournament final on Saturday! The All-Finnish final is the second in the last two editions of the tournament. The third-place game features an all-Chinese matchup and will be played on Friday.
Semi-Final 1: Finland One 6, China QiQihar 3
The Finns punched their ticket to Saturday’s final with a 6-3 win over China QiQihar on the second day of the international tournament. Verneri Vitala scored a hat trick, including the eventual winner in midway through the second period. Vitala also added an assist and finished with four points. China took a 1-0 lead on an unassisted goal from Yan Runan, who led his team with two goals, but Finland responded with three goals in the last four minutes of the first period. China came out strong in the third picking up two goals but it was not enough to stop the Finns who held on for the win.
Game Two: Finland Two 14, China Harbin 6
After scoring an impressive 13 goals over Westchester yesterday the Finns topped themselves with a 14-6 win over China Harbin. Finland led 5-4 after two periods, but exploded for nine goals in the third period and will advance to Saturday’s championship game. The Finns opened up the scoring just 20 seconds into the contest, but China came back with a goal from Li Guangzhi; who scored a hat trick in the game. China tried to rally late in the third period, but Tuomo Kirki put the game out of reach with two goals 16 seconds apart.
Game Three: Rinx 7, Westchester 2
Nicklas Vasquez’s six-point game powered the Rinx past Westchester 7-2 in the seventh-place game. Vasquez scored twice in the first period before completing the trick in the final frame. Jack Sendek scored both goals for Westchester, bulging the twine in the first and third period.