The familiar meets the strange for UMass hockey at Friendship Four in Belfast

Published: 11/24/2022 15:50:53

Modified: 2022-11-24 15:50:43

The Friendship Four offers a fusion of the familiar and the strange.

UMass takes part in the only collegiate hockey tournament held outside of the United States for the second time this weekend in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Coach Greg Carvel led the Minutemen on their first trip in his debut season in 2016. Assistant Nolan Gluchowski led Saint Lawrence, Carvel’s alma mater and former school, in their matchup. That being said, it’s a brand new experience for the Minutemen and will be for the fans in attendance.

“You don’t know hockey at all. In Dublin, they asked questions like “do you do that on ice?”. I think this is the only arena in the country. The ice conditions aren’t great here, but they’re learning,” said Carvel. “We are bringing something new to the country. It’s a great experience because it’s eye-opening for us and it’s eye-opening for people here.”

The No. 17 Minutemen arrived in Dublin on Monday and toured the Guinness factory and the United States Ambassador to Ireland’s residence. They moved on to Belfast where they trained in the SSE Arena and attended a peace wall separating predominantly Republican and Nationalist Catholic neighborhoods from predominantly Loyalist and Unionist Protestant neighborhoods.

“We’re just trying to soak it all up, but we came here for a couple of hockey games,” said UMass senior Jerry Harding.

The Minutemen meet well-known rivals #13/14 UMass Lowell at 2 p.m. Eastern (NESN+) on Friday and then either No. 4 Quinnipiac or Dartmouth depending on the results of the opening games. They went on a five-game losing streak last time out against New Hampshire, leaving UMass (6-5-1, 2-5 Hockey East) looking no further than the River Hawks (8-5, 5-3).

“Not really looking past our first opponent. We had many grudge matches with them. They’re going to be hungry and we have to cater to that,” Carvel said. “I have a lot of respect for Lowell and the way she competes. We have to do our best.”

Lowell has one of the best defenses in Hockey East. Goaltenders Henry Welsch (.935) and Gustavs Davis Grigals (.931) are both in the top five in the league for save percentage, and Welsch is Welsch is fourth in goals against average (1.76). The River Hawks have the second fewest goals conceded in the conference (22) and have the league’s No. 2 penalty shootout (87.5).

The game also features Hockey East’s top two teams: Lowell with 55.2 percent and UMass with 52.6 percent.

“We have a lot of respect for them, they play the game right. They play just as hard as we do. It’s going to be a tight control game.

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.