2020 Friendship Series: all you need to know about the annual women's college ice hockey tournament
The Friendship Series returns to Belfast this weekend as two of the top sides in women's college ice hockey go head-to-head at the SSE Arena.
After last year's hugely successful inaugural event featuring Clarkson and Northeastern, the event returns for a second edition this weekend and it's set to be another cracking two games.
So, what's going on this year? Here's all you need to know!
Who are the two teams competing this year?
The two teams in Belfast this weekend are the Merrimack College Warriors and the Quinnipiac University Bobcats.
If Quinnipiac sounds familiar to you, don't worry, they should. Their men's team competed in the 2016 Friendship Four, reaching the final where they lost to the University of Vermont Catamounts.
What is the Friendship Series?
The Friendship Series is the women's equivalent of the Friendship Four, the highly successful college ice hockey tournament held annually at the SSE Arena.
Part of the Sister Cities Agreement between Belfast and Boston, the Odyssey Trust have worked to bring college teams to Belfast since 2015, and this is the second year they have expanded that to women's teams.
Last year, Clarkson and Northeastern became the first college teams to travel over to Belfast for the event and made history, with a huge crowd for women's college ice hockey in attendance.
What is the difference between the Friendship Four and Friendship Four?
Apart from the obvious one that these are women's college teams rather than men's, there are a few small differences between the two events.
Firstly, there are only two women's teams playing this weekend rather than the four taking part in the Friendship Four, which also means there are only two games rather than four.
Also, there is no trophy on offer for the team that wins the two games, whereas the Friendship Four has the Belpot Trophy awarded to the winners.
So does that mean these aren't competitive games?
Both games count towards the teams' records in the NCAA back in the USA, therefore these aren't just friendlies the two teams are playing - they're important games!
When are the games?
The two sides face-off on Saturday at 3pm and then again on Sunday afternoon at 12pm, both being played at the SSE Arena.
The two games precede the Belfast Giants' double-header against the Coventry Blaze, which are at 7pm on Saturday and 4pm on Sunday.
How can I watch?
Easy, you get down to the games at the SSE Arena - they are completely FREE to attend!
If you can't get to the game in person but you still want to watch, Belfast Giants TV will have a live stream of both games, however you will have to pay to watch.
Tell me more about the two teams involved
Alright, here's all you need to know about the two sides taking part this weekend!
MERRIMACK COLLEGE WARRIORS
Head coach: Erin Hamlen (fifth season, former US international and assistant coach)
Conference record: 1-12-2
Last five results
7/12 @ New Hampshire L 2-4
6/12 vs New Hampshire L 0-6
1/12 vs Holy Cross L 0-1
27/11 vs Brown W 4-3
23/11 @ Providence College L 2-3 (OT)
Mikyla Grant-Mentis (F): 16 goals - 9 assists - 25 points
Keisha Dicaire (F): 1-12-13
Dominika Laskova (F): 1-10-11
Courtney Maud (F): 4-4-8
Katie Kaufman (F): 4-2-6
Katerina Bukolska (F): 3-3-6
Gabby Jones (F): 2-4-6
Léa-Kristine Demers: 15 games, 3.27 GAA, .891 SAV
Emma Gorski: 7 games, 3.15 GAA, .901 SAV
- Mikyla Grant-Mentis is five points off becoming Merrimack’s all-time leading scorer
- Grant-Mentis is two penalty minutes off becoming Merrimack’s all-time leading penalised player
- Grant-Mentis is Merrimack’s all-time leading assister
- Katerina Bukolska is a former Czech international and won gold at the 2014 and 2015 World Championship Division 1A; also won bronze at the 2014 World Junior Championships
- Dominika Laskova is a former Czech international and won gold at the 2014 World Championship Division 1A; also won bronze at the 2014 World Junior Championships; three-time Czech champion with HC Slavia Praha (2012, 2015, 2016)
QUINNIPIAC UNIVERSITY BOBCATS
Head coach: Cassandra Turner
Captains: Kenzie Prater and Kati Tabin
Alternates: Abbie Ives and Olivia Konigson
Last five results
7/12 vs #4 Cornell L 1-4
6/12 vs Colgate W 2-1
30/11 vs Yale University W 3-1
29/11 vs #10/9 Minnesota Duluth W 4-2
23/11 vs #5/5 Clarkson T 2-2 (OT)
Lexie Adzija (F): 8 goals - 9 assists - 17 points
Sarah-Ève Coutu-Godbout (F): 9-3-12
Sadie Peart (F): 4-6-10
Kathryn Reilly (D): 3-7-10
Kenzie Prater (D): 2-7-9
Kati Tabin (D): 2-7-9
Abbie Ives: 16 games, 1.79 GAA, .927 SAV
Logan Angers: 3 games, 1.01 GAA, .938 SAV
- Zoe Boyd and Lexie Adzija won bronze at the 2018 World Junior Championships
- Kenzie Prater won gold at the 2015 World Junior Championships
- Sarah-Ève Coutu-Godbout won silver at the 2015 World Junior Championships
- Courtney Vorster won silver (2015) and bronze (2016) at the World Junior Championships
What have they said?
Merrimack head coach Erin Hamlen
I spoke to both Clarkson and Northeastern from last year and I also spoke to the Providence men's side. Everybody says the same thing, it's been an incredible experience for all of them, not just the hockey but the whole experience. The enjoyment of being able to share our game with Belfast is really cool.
We've had to kind of remind them we're here for a purpose and to compete and win two hockey games. For us it's about remaining focused but knowing this is a unique experience for all of our teams.
Our message to the players was we wipe the slate clean after last semester and we start new. This is certainly fresh and new, and it would absolutely amazing to win both games. The girls have so much pride playing for the jersey and for Merrimack, to come out and represent well is our biggest aim.
Merrimack co-captain and leading scorer Mikyla Grant-Mentis
It's been kind of crazy. It's felt like we've been on vacation for four days just touring, but now we have to switch our brains into hockey mode. We're back into it now, so it's not too exerting.
It's an honour to get the opportunity to come and play here and represent Merrimack abroad. We're treating this as a new season. Our mission is to reach the play-offs, so that's all we're trying to do. Getting two wins here in Belfast would be an amazing way to start that and to sign off this week!
Quinnipiac head coach Cassandra Turner
The people have been so welcoming already, it feels like home.
I trust our team know how to turn it on when it's time. They have so much energy right now, they're so excited to be here and they're looking sharp too. I think when we hit game-time they'll be fully focused and ready to play. Our team is hungry, they want to win championships and we want to get better every single day - that will drive them this weekend.
We spoke to Clarkson and Northeastern and they both said it would be amazing if we came over and had the same experience they had. It would be outstanding if we could win both games, it would cap off what's already been an amazing week. That's the goal.
Quinnipiac captain Kenzie Prater
We're having a great time getting to see what you guys have to offer in Ireland. It's cool that we get to experience it. I was here in the summer, my brother was playing soccer here, so I was past the SSE Arena a lot getting a bit of a preview!
We all love hockey so much we know how to get that balance between enjoying the week and getting into game mode. It'd be a great start to the second half of our season if we could pick up the two wins this weekend, and being a senior it would be great for our senior class to continue our success from the first half of the season!
Belfast Telegraph Digital