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Top US women's teams are all set for Belfast first

 

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Welcome: Belfast Lord Mayor Deirdre Hargey with Cassidy Vinkle and Brittany Bugalski at City Hall yesterday

Welcome: Belfast Lord Mayor Deirdre Hargey with Cassidy Vinkle and Brittany Bugalski at City Hall yesterday

Welcome: Belfast Lord Mayor Deirdre Hargey with Cassidy Vinkle and Brittany Bugalski at City Hall yesterday

Off the back of the success of the Friendship Four, American college hockey returns to Belfast as two of the top NCAA women's sides become the first to play games outside of North America.

Back-to-back champions the Clarkson Golden Knights and the Northeastern Huskies will go head-to-head in a two-game set at the SSE Arena in the first edition of the Friendship Series.

The two games will be played before the Belfast Giants' doubleheader with the Sheffield Steelers, with tomorrow's game at 3pm and Sunday's game at noon.

Even better, admission to both games is free for all, with tickets handed out at the door before both games.

Clarkson, who won the 2017 and 2018 NCAA titles and are ranked fifth this year, will be eager to make a push in 2019 for a third successive title.

"As soon as we heard about this opportunity we weren't going to pass it up," says Golden Knights coach Matt Desrosiers.

"It's going to be eye-opening for a lot of people watching these girls play and how good they are. You have two great teams coming in, so it should be a great representation of women's college hockey."

Clarkson captain Cassidy Vinkle, a senior forward, added: "The fans are lucky because these are two great sides and we're determined to make it two great games for them."

However, third-ranked Northeastern ended the season's first half well and will be a hard team to beat, led by Swiss international forward Alina Mueller and the goaltending tandem of Aerin Frankel and Brittany Bugalski.

"We've been looking forward to this for a while and so far it's lived up to what everybody's said before we came," says Huskies head coach Dave Flint.

"It's going to be pretty heated because these are two big games, and it has ramifications in the league, so you're going to see both teams' best efforts."

Netminder Bugalski, who is also the Huskies captain, added: "It's been an incredible experience so far, and to be able to play a premier team like Clarkson on a big stage like this will let us prove ourselves."

Belfast Telegraph