Schoolchildren from across Belfast will be at the SSE Arena on Friday (25 November) to cheer on the teams taking part in the NI Connections Friendship Four tournament.

They have received free tickets to watch the first game of the prestigious event which will see four US ice-hockey teams from Quinnipiac University, The University of Vermont, St. Lawrence University and University of Massachusetts compete for the Belpot Trophy. Ahead of the game, they will also visit W5 to take part in interactive STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) workshops.

Belfast City Council is the principal sponsor of the NI Connections Friendship Four tournament which is a landmark event for the city. The only NCAA tournament in the world to be played outside the USA, as well as attracting a global television audience, it is expected to draw in large numbers of spectators from across the UK, Republic of Ireland and America.

The teams will be arriving in the city this week and will be officially welcomed to Belfast at a civic reception in City Hall on Wednesday.

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Lord Mayor Alderman Brian Kingston said: “After weeks of preparation, the return of the NI Connections Friendship Four ice-hockey tournament is just days away and we are very much looking forward to welcoming the teams to the city.

“It’s fantastic to host such a prestigious tournament in Belfast and it strengthens our reputation for hosting major sporting events in the city. Once again, hundreds of children from schools and community groups from across the city will be invited to watch the action unfold on Friday 25 November for free. I would also encourage as many people as possible to come down to the SSE Arena on Friday and Saturday to cheer on the teams and be part of the Friendship Four experience.”

The NI Connections Friendship Four ice-hockey tournament will take place at the SSE Arena on Friday 25 and Saturday 26 November. The Lord Mayor will drop the puck at the first game to officially start the event.

The idea for the tournament being held in Belfast stemmed from discussions when Belfast and Boston signed a Sister Cities Agreement in 2014 as part of the council’s international relations work. The inaugural tournament took place last year in November 2015 when Umass Lowell won the Belpot Trophy.