US ice-hockey college teams were welcomed to Belfast at a special reception at City Hall on Wednesday.

The teams from Quinnipiac University, the University of Vermont, St Lawrence University and University of Massachusetts are in the city to compete in the NI Connections Friendship Four games on Friday 25 and Saturday 26 November.

Belfast City Council is the principal sponsor of the 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.

Speaking at the reception and welcoming the teams to Belfast, Lord Mayor Alderman Brian Kingston, said: “We are proud to bring this great event to the city once again. The NCAA is the best post-secondary education system in the world for student athletes. As well as taking part in the games, the US universities will be integrating with the educational and sporting communities in Belfast spreading their message of sportsmanship, education and excellence. They have been visiting schools across the city this week and schoolchildren have been invited to the SSE Arena to watch the first game of the tournament on Friday.

“I wish all the teams a very enjoyable Thanksgiving and memorable stay in Belfast and would encourage as many people as possible to visit the SSE Arena on Friday and Saturday to cheer on the teams and be part of the Friendship Four experience.”

The US guests were entertained at the special reception in City Hall by the Belfast Community Gospel Choir and the Olympus Dance Company.

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