The 2016 Northern Irish Connections Friendship Four takes place on Friday 25th and Saturday 26th November at The SSE Arena, Belfast. With the second ever NCAA mens ice-hockey tournament to be held in Belfast now only a few days away – take a look at how this year’s four tournament teams got on in their recent action..

Quinnipiac University Bobcats

The Quinnipiac Bobcats posted back-to-back wins in two games last weekend!

Quinnipiac junior Landon Smith’s natural hat trick led the Bobcats to a 6-3 ECAC Hockey win against Dartmouth in front of 3,319 at High Point Solutions Arena at the TD Bank Sports Center.

Smith’s hat trick is the 30th in Quinnipiac’s 41-year history and the 22nd at the NCAA Division I level, which began with the 1998-99 season. Smith also had the Bobcats’ last hat trick, scoring twice in a 5-2 win at Brown on Jan. 30, 2015. The last natural hat trick for a Quinnipiac player came during the 2013 NCAA East Regional Championship when Matthew Peca staked the Bobcats to a 3-0 lead early in the game.

Quinnipiac defeated Harvard, 4-2, in a pivotal ECAC Hockey match-up that was nationally-televised on SNY in HD in front of a capacity crowd of 3,520 at High Point Solutions Arena at the TD Bank Sports Center. With the win, the Bobcats improved to 7-3-1 overall and 3-1-0 in ECAC Hockey play.

Four different Quinnipiac players scored, highlighted by powerplay goals by Brogan Rafferty & Luke Shiplo and including markers from Craig Martin and an empty-netter in the closing seconds from Tommy Schutt. Quinnipiac was 2-for-5 on the power play and is now 7-for-25 for a 28% clip over its last six games. In addition, the Bobcats were 5-for-5 on the penalty kill and now stand at 36-for-37 over its last six games. Quinnipiac is now 28-0-5 in its last 33 games at home in which it scores first.

Quinnipiac have only two more games to play before the Friendship Four. Both games are on the road, first against Cornell on Friday before travelling to face Colgate on Saturday.

St. Lawrence University Saints

St.Lawrence are now undefeated in five games following a tie on Friday vs Union College and a 3-1 win on Saturday vs Rensselaer.

The St. Lawrence University team raced out to a 2-0 lead with two first-period goals at Messa Rink in Schenectady on Friday night, but No. 15/16 ranked Union responded with a goal in the second and another in the third as the ECAC Hockey contest ended in a 2-2 tie.

“It was a hard fought game,” said St.Lawrence Saints’ head coach Mark Morris. “It would’ve been nice to close Union out in the third, but we took some poor penalties which sapped our offensive punch. It’s no fun playing on your heels.”

Another long-standing program record for the St. Lawrence men’s hockey team fell on Saturday, as senior defenseman Gavin Bayreuther scored his 32nd career goal in the second period to help the Saints to a 3-1 win over Rensselaer in Troy, N.Y.

Bayreuther’s goal moves him past former Saints’ standout Brian McColgan ’86 for sole possession of the program’s record for goals by a defenseman which has stood at 31 for the last 28 years.

The Saints improved to 6-4-2 overall and 3-0-1 in ECAC Hockey with a three-point trip to the Capitol District. With Union falling to Clarkson Saturday night, the Saints are the only unbeaten team in the league.

There are only two more games for St.Lawrence before the Friendship Four facing Yale and Brown at home on Friday and Saturday respectively.

University of Massachusetts Minutemen

University of Massachusetts Minutemen had a weekend of mixed fortunes with one win and one loss.

A three-goal first period helped propel University of Massachusetts hockey to its first Hockey East win of the season, a 3-1 victory at Merrimack on Friday night. Junior Anthony Petrella, freshman Shane Bear and freshman Jonny Lazarus provided the goals for the Minutemen, while sophomore Nic Renyard totaled 40 saves.

UMass erased an early 1-0 deficit, but Vermont netted the deciding goal with just over five minutes to play in regulation to defeat the Minutemen 2-1 on Saturday night at the Mullins Center. The contest was a preview of UMass’ opening Friendship Four matchup as the teams will meet again in Belfast on Friday 25th November.

UMass now only have one game left on the schedule before the Friendship Four, taking on New Hampshire on Friday on the road.

University of Vermont Catamounts

Vermont won their only game of the weekend, 2-1, over UMass on Saturday.

Rookie Matt Alvaro’s third goal of the season with 5:14 left in the third period pushed Vermont past UMass 2-1 on Saturday night in Hockey East action to close out a four-game road trip at the Mullins Center.

The Catamounts extended their unbeaten streak against the Minutemen to nine games (8-0-1) and improved to 5-3-1. UMass, which fell to 3-5-1 on the year, was limited to just 14 shots on goal by the UVM defense.

Vermont will face Dartmouth on Tuesday before a double-header on the road this Friday and Saturday against Maine.

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.