Huskies ace Madden is relishing Friendship Four experience
The fifth Friendship Four gets under way today at the SSE Arena as a quartet of the top American college ice hockey teams compete for the Belpot Trophy.
The annual series, which is the only NCAA tournament to take place outside of North America, continues to go from strength to strength with this year the first edition to feature two returning colleges from the inaugural event.
The Colgate Raiders and Northeastern Huskies both return for their second appearances having played in 2015, and they are joined by tournament debutants the Princeton Tigers and the University of New Hampshire Wildcats.
The action begins today at the SSE Arena at 3pm when Northeastern clash with the University of New Hampshire in the first semi-final, with the second semi-final between Colgate and Princeton facing-off at 7pm.
The favourites to walk away with the trophy will be Northeastern, who are ranked 12th in the NCAA, have the best record of the four colleges and also boast one of the top players in college hockey in forward Tyler Madden, who leads the NCAA in goals (11).
The Huskies come in off the back of three straight wins, including against #10 Providence College, and dangerman Madden said: "We've heard the Friendship Four is a great time, with everything around it and getting to play in front of a new set of fans.
"Those three wins before coming here is big because you're in a different environment. We're feeling confident coming here, which is good."
Their closest challengers will arguably be the University of New Hampshire, who have also started the season well with a 6-5-1 record. For Wildcats head coach Mike Souza, however, it's all about making sure the players enjoy all aspects of the trip, even away from the rink.
"Our guys have had two up-tempo practices, they've adjusted really well to the travel and we're also trying to enjoy everything away from the rink as well, and we're trying to make sure we're diligent in ensuring that happens. The tournament's been first class," praised Souza.
In the other semi-final, Colgate take on Princeton in a rematch of a game they played last weekend, which ended in a 2-2 tie.
For Colgate, it has been something of a closer bonding experience than they maybe thought it would be - several of their team got trapped in a lift!
Raiders co-captain Bobby McMann said: "The people are all excited to have us here and we're really excited to be here. We played Princeton last week, we know they're a very fast team, but we've adjusted well for this weekend and we're excited."
Princeton have struggled to start the season, going 1-4-3, but their tie with Colgate will give them confidence heading into today's game and the change of scenery could help them.
Tigers captain Derek Topatigh said: "This is the first time for a lot of us being in the UK, so being able to tour around and see the city is what makes it awesome.
"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity, so everyone is trying to soak it in and take as much from it as we can, but once we come to the rink it's all business. We're here to win two games."
Tomorrow will see the two losing colleges play in the Consolation Game at 3pm, with the Championship Game at 7pm.