PUPILS at Holy Trinity Primary School in Turf Lodge got a brilliant surprise this week when they were treated to a visit from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst Ice Hockey team as part of the Friendship Four tournament.

The Friendship Four tournament sees four college ice hockey teams from the USA come to visit schools in Belfast to teach pupils about ice hockey, and also to invite them to see the tournament which takes place at the SSE arena on Friday 25 November.

 

ICE HOCKEY: UMass players talking to Holy Trinity Primary School children about Ice Hockey
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ICE HOCKEY: UMass players talking to Holy Trinity Primary School children about Ice Hockey

The team, the UMass Minutemen from Amherst, were the 2021 champions in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) for ice hockey, and will face their rivals, the UMass Lowell River Hawks this Friday at the SSE arena. The two other teams competing in the tournament are Dartmouth Big Green and the Quinnipiac Bobcats.

As part of the Friendship Four tournament each team will be visiting schools in Belfast, and pupils and their family members will also receive tickets to go and see the games on Friday night.

Pupils at Holy Cross had prepared mini flags ahead of the team’s arrival and the team arrived accompanied by Fr. Brian Watters of St Peter’s Cathedral Parish on Falls Road.

The team were greeted with great applause and a presentation which saw each player explain their position in the team and where they were from in the USA and Canada. The majority of the players have a strong background in ice hockey, and some stated they had been skating on the ice since they were two years old. Many of the team, including their Head Coach Greg Carvel spoke of having Irish heritage, and how excited they were to visit Ireland to take part in the competition.

The children were on top form during the question and answer session provided by team, and when coach Carvel asked pupils if they knew anything about ice hockey, one youngster answered: ‘it’s on ice!’.

Coach Carvel explained how many of the players in the team who are currently ranked as amateurs would go on to play at a professional level in the National Hockey League (NHL). The coach explained the players train six days a week to stay in top form and that players from the University had gone on to play for many teams including the Belfast Giants.

After a question and answer session, players joined the children in groups and spoke with them, with the children asking players questions about their life on the University team. Before leaving the team were treated to an Irish dancing demonstration by Holy Cross pupil Darlagh McCrory.

As the team left the students filled the room with a deafening roar of ‘Go UMass!’, with all excited for the game on Friday night.

Speaking after the event Greg Carvel said: “I was last in Belfast six years ago, I loved it, and I love this part of the trip, where we get to meet the kids, and to see them excited about the upcoming game. For most of the players this will be their first time in Ireland, although as you heard many of them can trace their roots back here from generations ago. We’re playing against our main rivals Lowell on Friday, and we beat them last year in the playoffs, so they’ll be hungry to get a win in over us. For some of our players their next step will be going to play for teams such as the Belfast Giants, and we have a lot of former players who have gone on to play for the Giants, so they’re well known over in the States.”

In the final the team at UMass went on to draw 2-2 against the Quinnipiac Bobcats, with Quinnipiac eventually winning 1-0 in the following shootout to win the tournament.