Union, Yale teams ‘experiencing the culture’ in Belfast on eve of Friendship Four

Yale players take time to pose for a picture in Belfast before getting down to business on the ice Friday (photo: Yale Athletics)
Yale players and staff take time to pose for a picture in Belfast before getting down to business on the ice Friday (photo: Yale Athletics).

For the fourth straight season, a pair of ECAC Hockey teams will be spending Thanksgiving in Northern Ireland.

Union and Yale are set to play in the opening round of the Friendship Four Friday in Belfast. The tournament featuring Hockey East and ECAC Hockey teams is in its fourth year and began as recognition of the sister city status between Belfast and Boston.

Clarkson was the first ECAC team to win the Belpot Trophy as tournament champions last year.

The Bulldogs and Dutchmen begin the tournament at 10 a.m. EDT Friday, while Connecticut and Boston University will play the second game of the day. Friday’s game between Union and Yale will count as a nonconference game. On Saturday, the losers of the first two games will play at 10 a.m. ET while the championship game will be held at 2 p.m. EDT.

Union enters the tournament with a 7-3-1 record thanks in large part to a strong senior class highlighted by forwards Cole Maier, Ryan Walker, Sebastian Vidmar and Brett Supinski. Coach Rick Bennett credited those players with helping the Dutchmen recover from an overtime loss at Princeton on Nov. 9 to beat Quinnipiac 5-1 the next night, which was the last time Union was in action entering this weekend.

But the Dutchmen have seen plenty of contributions from its sophomore class as well.

Josh Kosack scored twice in the win at Quinnipiac, while forward Liam Morgan skated on the top line with Walker and Maier. Detroit draft pick Jack Adams has been a solid contributor and defenseman Taylor Brierley has played in every game this year after only seeing action three times as a freshman.

“You can’t rely on your so-called seniors or your juniors,” Bennett said. “It’s a team game. You have to contribute. You have to earn your ice, at least on this team you do. That’s how it’s always been run and that’s how it’s going to be continued to be run.”

Yale enters the Friendship Four coming off a shutout loss to Dartmouth on Nov. 10.

The Bulldogs had a chance to tour Dublin prior to heading Belfast, and the team is posting updates and pictures here from its travels in Ireland.

“In addition to the great hockey, we are looking forward to visiting Northern Ireland, meeting new people, and experiencing the culture of their beautiful country,” Yale coach Keith Allain said. “I have spoken with several people who have competed in the Friendship Four and everyone speaks highly of the total experience for their student athletes. I’m sure the trip will bring us closer together as a team and create lifelong memories for our young men.”

The Bulldogs and Dutchmen aren’t the only ECAC Hockey teams that will be on the big stage this weekend.

Harvard and Cornell are set to play Saturday at Madison Square Garden in the Frozen Apple. This is the fourth time that the biennial event has been held, but the first time that the Big Red have faced a league team in the matchup, although the game will count as a nonconference game. Saturday’s matchup will be the first regular-season meeting outside of Ithaca or the Boston area since the series’ first two games in 1910 and 1911 at the St. Nicholas Rink in New York.

Cornell has won each of the three previous editions of the Frozen Apple, and also won its Red Hot Hockey matchup against Boston University at the Garden last November. That series has been held every other year at the Garden since 2007, with the Terriers holding a 3-1-2 advantage.