Boston and Union to contest Friendship Four final

Union and Yale played the first game of this year's Friendship Four in Belfast. Credit: Presseye

Boston University and Union College are set to compete in the showpiece final of the Friendship Four, which brings NCAA ice hockey to Belfast on a now annual basis.

The tournament, which came about as part of efforts to strengthen the bonds between Belfast and its sister city Boston, is now in its fourth year.

The overall winner of the two-day event will have the honour of claiming the bragging rights and the Belpot trophy – a reclaimed east Belfast school bell.

Previous champions include the Clarkson Golden Knights who took the honours last year.

Before that, the UMass Lowell River Hawks were the first ever side to lift the Belpot back in 2015 and they were followed in 2016 by the Vermont Catamounts.

Union sealed their place in the final with a shootout win over Yale University in the first game of this year’s tournament on Friday afternoon.

Union's Jack Adams scored his side's opening goal against Yale. Credit: Presseye

The Union Dutchmen held a one-goal lead after Jack Adams scored early in the opening period.

The Yale Bulldogs only tied things up with just over eight minutes left in the game, courtesy of a goal from Charlie Curti.

Even overtime couldn’t split the sides and it fell to a shootout, with Union ultimately progressing.

Friday’s later game then saw Boston University’s Terriers clinch their final place by defeating University of Connecticut’s Huskies 3-2.

The Huskies had taken the early lead, with a powerplay goal after just five minutes from Karl El-Mir.

But another powerplay goal, this time from Boston’s Patrick Curry, tied things back up.

Boston and University of Connecticut in Friendship Four action. Credit: Presseye

The Huskies were back in front before the end of the first period though, with a goal from Jachym Kondelik – his first of the season.

Logan Cockerill supplied a second equaliser for the Terriers to make it all level again going into the final period.

And Ty Amonte’s goal for Boston was to prove enough to give his side the win.

With Boston now set to meet Union in the final at 7pm on Saturday, Yale and Connecticut will first contest the third place decider at 3pm.

Lots of local school children have been attending the Friendship Four games, with community outreach a major part of the event.

Players from the US colleges have been visiting schools to talk about their experiences in further education and playing sport, with the pupils then cheering on their new friends as they hit the ice.

The inaugural Friendship Four marked the first time that competitive NCAA games had been played outside North America, and the tournament has only gone from strength to strength.

As well as showcasing sporting talent at the SSE Arena home of the Belfast Giants, the event continues to build on educational, economic and tourism links between Northern Ireland and the US, with the games broadcast on networks across North America.