Four leading US universities from the prestigious National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), will being playing a ‘Festival of Hockey’ over Thanksgiving weekend (Friday November 27 and Saturday November 28 2015) in Belfast as a key part of a ground-breaking new event designed to foster closer educational links between Northern Ireland and the US.

The NCAA Friendship Four Hockey Tournament will be a highlight of the forthcoming Festival of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths), which is sponsored by Citi, along with a series of events designed to showcase the importance of the study of these subjects to the future economic development of Northern Ireland.

There will be a wide range of audiences from all levels of education over the weekend, at the end of which a deeper connection between tertiary schooling in the US and in Northern Ireland is hoped to have been established.

An important element of the initiative is social inclusion, so there has been a big effort to ensure young people from deprived rural and urban areas of Northern Ireland participate in programmes and activities over the course of the STEM festival.

Andrew O’Brien, special representative for global partnerships in the office of the US Secretary of State and Marty Walsh. Mayor of Boston are also supporting the event. It is hoped that the links forged between Northern Ireland and the US over the course of the weekend will result in a greater number of transatlantic college applications.

“We are delighted to be supporting this great event. As the leading American firm in Belfast, it’s the perfect partnership for us. Citi is committed to supporting innovative ideas as well as communities in which we live and work,” said John Healy, head of Citi in Northern Ireland.

The Friendship Four tournament represents a world first for the NCAA as it is the first time the league has taken to the ice to play competitive games outside the USA. Teams from UMass Lowell, Northeastern University, Brown University and Colgate University, all of which are from the Boston area, will compete for the Belpot Trophy at the SSE Arena, home of the Belfast Giants.