With the 2016 NI Connections Friendship Four now only one month away, the weeks seem to count down much faster as we approach the second ever tournament!

Officials from the Hockey East and ECAC conferences as well as the competing universities have completed their inspection trip to Belfast and we are now full steam ahead in preparation for the 25th and 26th November!

Take a look at how this year’s four tournament teams got on in last weekend’s action..

Quinnipiac University Bobcats

As we have mentioned before, Quinnipiac were ranked #2 overall in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Poll pre-season and will be the favourites to lift the Belpot Trophy in Belfast this November.

The Bobcats had mixed results over the past week with one win and one loss. Quinnipiac improved to 3-1-1 on the season while handing UConn their first loss of the season in a 5-2 home win on Wednesday.

Andrew Taverner, Connor Clifton and Brogan Rafferty led the Bobcats’ offense with one goal and one assist each. Craig Martin and Thomas Aldworth also scored for the Bobcats. In net, Chris Truehl had 29 saves to improve to 2-1-1 on the year.

Saturday saw Quinnipiac lose out to Boston University (BU), 3-0, in a non-conference match-up in Boston. Quinnipiac dropped to 3-2-1 overall while BU, with the win over the Bobcats, improved to 3-2-0 on the year.

Giants fans – recognise the BU name? That’s because a few Giants over the years have graduated from there! Check out a few goals from Steve Thornton in the 1995 NCAA Championship as well as THAT Chris Higgins Beanpot goal.

Next up for the Bobcats is a clash with fellow NI Connections Friendship Four competitors, UMass on Tuesday 25th October. After that, Quinnipiac do not play until two road games on Friday 4th and Saturday 5th November when the face Clarkson and St.Lawrence, also competing in the year’s NI Connections Friendship Four, respectively.

St. Lawrence University Saints

The Saints fell to back-to-back weekend defeats on the road to UMass Lowell and Providence College.

A pair of shorthanded goals in the second period helped UMass Lowell to a 5-2 win over St. Lawrence on Friday night. The Saints were once again plagued by penalties, taking 16 minutes against the River Hawks.

“We took too many penalties that got us out of sorts and we never really got our bearings,” head coach Mark Morris said in a postgame press conference. “We can be a lot sharper than that, we’re a better team than we showed and credit goes to them. I was really impressed with Lowell. They were quick, strong, assertive and that’s what we aspire to be when we mature.”

The Providence Friars downed the St. Lawrence Saints 6-3 with the help of four power play goals. With the loss the Saints drop to an even .500 at 3-3-0.

“We played two outstanding hockey teams this weekend,” Morris said following the Providence game. “Credit them with a strong push and for capitalizing on some chances.”

The Saints will now play four straight home games with back-to-back games this Friday and Saturday against the University of Wisconsin and the University of Minnesota respectively.

University of Massachusetts Minutemen

UMass won their only game of the weekend, using a strong start and four points from the squad’s freshmen to propel the Minutemen to a 3-2 win over Army West Point on Friday evening at home. With the victory, UMass move to 2-1-0 on the season.

The Minutemen will head to Quinnipiac for their first road game of the season this Tuesday, 25th October where the squad will face the Bobcats in a contest that sees two of the 2016 NI Connections Friendship Four teams go head-to-head.

University of Vermont Catamounts

The University of Vermont had an undefeated road weekend against Nebraska Omaha (UNO), tying 4-4 on Friday before winning 5-2 in Saturday’s clash.

On Friday, the Catamounts came back from 2-0 and 3-2 down to take their first lead in the third period, but Austin Ortega netted the game-tying goal for UNO with under five minutes to play.

“I’m really proud of our effort and resilience to be down two on the road in a hostile environment,” said head coach Kevin Sneddon. “We have some things to correct but there were a lot of positives.”

On Saturday, Vermont rattled off five unanswered goals from five different players and rookie Stefanos Lekkas stopped all 21 shots he faced off the bench.

The Catamounts improved to 2-1-1, while the Mavericks suffered their first loss of the season. Craig Puffer had a three-point night with a goal and two assists, while Jarrid Privitera and Rob Hamilton each collected two assists in the win.

NI Connections Friendship Four Tickets

Prices for the 4-Game Weekend Pass, which is the only way to access all four NI Connections Friendship Four tournament games, are on sale now at: Adult – £40, Concession (Student/Over 65s) – £30, Child (16 & Under) – £20 and Family (2 Adults & 2 Kids) – £99. Click here to buy online.

The Weekend Pass is also available for the ‘Super Seats’, Centre Ice on South Side, at: Adult – £50, Concession – £40, Child – £30, Family – £139

Tickets are now on sale for both 7:30pm games on Friday & Saturday, click here for UMass v Vermont on Friday and click here for Saturday’s Friendship Four final game. Tickets for the individual games are on sale at: Adult – £16, Concession – £11, Child – £9, Family – £44.