Belfast atmosphere was unbelievable, says Huskies skipper after college glory
Winning captain Ryan Shea hopes some of his Northeastern team-mates get the chance to relive their "awesome" Friendship Four experience after they became the fifth winners of the annual college tournament.
Not only did Shea become the fifth person to ring the Belpot Trophy at the SSE Arena, the defenceman was also the game-winner for the Huskies, scoring the shorthanded empty net winner in their 4-3 victory over the Colgate Raiders in Saturday's final.
As well as that, Chicago Blackhawks prospect Shea, who is highly tipped to some day make it to the NHL, was named Player of the Tournament for two outstanding displays in both the semi-final and the final.
With the NCAA's rules dictating that college teams can only travel abroad once every four years, this is the only time Shea will be able to play in the Friendship Four as the earliest Northeastern will be able to return to Belfast is in 2023.
However, the event left such an impact on the captain that he hopes some of the first-year players in the team will get the chance to return with the Huskies if they decide to try and enter again in four years' time.
"It was awesome. I definitely didn't expect this, I didn't expect there to be so many fans out there. The atmosphere was unbelievable," praised Shea.
"The way it was set up, from the hotel to being able to walk around the Christmas markets, it was an honour to play here.
"I really hope the freshmen get another crack at it because this was just an amazing experience from start to finish."
As for the final, the consensus is that it was one of the best games ever played in the Friendship Four as Northeastern and Colgate played out a classic in front a bumper crowd of 6,000 people at the SSE Arena.
The Huskies raced out to a 3-0 lead in the first, but Colgate pulled it back to 3-2 in the second period before Shea settled it with his empty-netter with just 47.6 seconds remaining, making Bobby McMann's strike with 17.5 seconds left on the clock redundant.
That gave Shea the rare opportunity to ring the Belpot Trophy at centre ice as the winning captain, and the 22-year-old says it's something unique that he will remember forever.
"It was pretty cool. Usually you get to lift a trophy but here you're ringing one, and I thought it was really cool," added Shea.
"It honestly gave me chills when I was ringing it, looking at all the fans in the stands with their hands up and my team-mates going nuts on the ice.
"I loved the idea of the bell."