The Friendship Four returns for a fourth year, with 4 new NCAA teams looking to emulate UMass-Lowell, Vermont and Clarkson by winning the Belpot trophy in the 2-day tournament. This is one of the best weekends of hockey in Belfast – with the speed and skill of college hockey on display – as well as the chance to see potential future NHLers (and potential future Belfast Giants). The level of talent on show this year should be the best yet, with college hockey powerhouse BU bringing over a stacked roster but there is plenty of talent throughout all 4 teams. Over the next 4 days we’ll take a look at the teams lining up in this year’s tournament, so lets begin:
Boston University Terriers
A juggernaut rolls into Belfast this year for their first appearance in the Friendship Four. On paper, BU will be the strongest team to compete in the competition since it began, with a total of 13 players drafted by NHL teams and some of the hottest prospects in the college game on show. From established college players like Dante Fabbro and Shane Bowers to freshmen Joel Farabee and Jake Wise, BU have recruited a roster this year that should challenge for the NCAA title come the end of the season. We will also see the first returning player to the Friendship Four in the form of Maxwell Willman, who has transferred to BU from Brown University. He will be looking to go one better than his runner up finish in 2015.
Although BU haven’t won an NCAA title since 08/09, they have been a breeding ground for NHL talent – current NHL stars Jack Eichel, Kevin Shattenkirk and Charlie McAvoy cut their teeth at BU before turning pro, as did a few familiar faces to Giants fans in Steve Thornton, Shane Johnson and Chris Higgins. Last season they made it to the Frozen Four quarterfinals so they will be looking to improve upon that again under the coaching of first year coach Albie O’Connell, and they would have to start as favourites to take home the Belpot trophy.
Player To Watch – #28 Joel Farabee
Picked 14th overall by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2018 NHL draft, Joel Farabee starts his BU career with the weight of expectation on his shoulders after a fantastic year with the US National Development program. Farabee’s calling card is his hockey IQ so look for him to use that to make plays and create opportunities. He’ll not just be seen contributing at one end of the ice either, as he should be an important part of the penalty kill and will look to use his energy and IQ to put the opposition under pressure and create shorthanded chances. Flyers fans should be particularly excited about Farabee – if all goes well he’ll be a big part of their core for years to come.