UMass hockey to play in Northern Ireland



Last modified: Sunday, February 21, 2016

Dominic Trento didn’t know much about hockey in Great Britain when he turned on a Friendship Four Tournament game between Northeastern and UMass-Lowell.

“We were watching the games that day. I was thinking how sweet it was,” UMass’ sophomore forward said. Northern “Ireland is a pretty sweet spot. It looked like a great crowd. It was cool to see.”

Trento will be playing in front of that crowd next season as the Minutemen have been chosen to play in the second Friendship Four Tournament in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on Nov. 25-16.

“It’s awesome. It’s very exciting. We’re all very excited about it,” he said following Monday’s announcement.

The first-round games between UMass and Vermont, and St. Lawrence and Quinnipiac will count as Hockey East and ECAC games, respectively. The winners will play each other for the Belpot Trophy, while the losers will play in a consolation game.

“There’s nothing else like it in the NCAA. As soon as we got information, we absolutely want our guys to be exposed to that experience,” UMass coach John Micheletto said. “To go and soak up an entirely different culture with the history of that area, I think our guys will eat it up. I think they really recognize what a great opportunity it is. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Micheletto thought his players would be good ambassadors for UMass and college hockey.

“I’m really proud of our players. The quality of our recruiting here has been as much about the person as it is the hockey player,” he said. “I’m always happy to get our guys out in the community and have people be as impressed with them as I am.”

UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford was pleased to be involved.

“We are thankful to be invited to the Friendship Four event,” he said in a press release. “This will be a special international trip for our program and will enhance the experience for our student-athletes.”

The 2015 event drew more than 20,000 and was televised on NESN, Time Warner Cable and TSN1, Canada’s version of ESPN.

“The memory of Thanksgiving in Belfast remains strong and I am pleased that four other hockey-playing institutions will get to enjoy the hospitality of our hosts,” Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna said in a conference release. “We all look forward to another smashing success.”

The games will be played at the SSE Arena, home of the Belfast Giants, a professional team that competes within the Elite Ice Hockey League. The Giants have been a unifying presence in a city with a history of violence stemming from political and religious tensions. Rules in the arena are designed to bring Catholics and Protestants together as certain colors and clothing are banned. The slogan “A Game for All, a Game for Everyone” is used prominently.

The event is part of the Sisters Cities agreement between Boston and Belfast. The Friendship Four marked the first time that NCAA college hockey was played outside of North America.

Easthampton native Jeff Mason, who played at Providence College, is a member of the Giants.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage


 


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