The Union Dutchmen are the 2018 Friendship Four champions. The Friendship Four, an annual NCAA Hockey tournament held in Belfast, Ireland, hosts four teams as they compete for the Belpot Trophy. This year, the Boston University Terriers, Yale Bulldogs, University of Connecticut Huskies, and Union battled for the title.
In this year’s finale, a heated matchup between the Dutchmen and Terriers took place. While BU gave it their all, Union was able to hold on for a 2-1 victory and the right to ring the bell, to cement themselves in Irish hockey history.
Union Survives BU
The match between the Terriers and Dutchmen was even to start. While BU was able to put more pucks on net, outshooting their opponent 16-10 in the first period, Union was the first to get on the board. Senior Brett Supinski got his stick on junior Anthony Rinaldi’s wrist shot to put the puck past BU’s junior goaltender Jake Oettinger, giving the Dutchmen a 1-0 lead halfway through the first.
With 40 seconds to go in the opening frame, however, BU sophomore Ty Amonte scored his second goal of the tournament. Assisted by juniors Patrick Curry and Dante Fabbro, the goal knotted the game at one goal apiece. The tying mark, however, stirred up Union’s will to reclaim the lead. Less than four minutes into the second frame, sophomore Parker Foo skated down the right wing on a 2-on-1 opportunity. He had two choices: pass or shoot. He chose the latter, firing a wrist shot under Oettinger’s glove to give the Dutchmen a 2-1 lead.
The Terriers’ head coach, Albie O’Connell, must have lit a fire in his team’s locker room after a disappointing second period. Entering the final frame, BU hit the ice with playoff-like intensity. While they only registered one more shot than Union during the third period, it felt like the Terriers had complete control of the game in every sector but the scoreboard.
BU had a multitude of scoring chances but the Dutchmen were able to hang on thanks to their sophomore goaltender Darion Hanson. In one instance, Hanson had lost his stick during a scrimmage in front of his net. The Terriers maintained possession of the puck and a rebound found its way to senior Bobo Carpenter. The forward put a backhander towards the bottom-left corner of the cage that was wide open and began to put his hands up in celebration. Hanson had the last laugh, however, stretching his right pad as far as he could to deny Carpenter and hold onto his team’s slim lead.
The goaltender went on to be crowned the MVP of the tournament, a well-earned honor. While the Dutchmen as a whole had been impressive, their netminder stood on his head and impacted his team’s success in Ireland. It’s not the first time Hanson has been in the spotlight either; he has been named ECAC goalie of the week twice this season already. He gave up just two goals in two games overseas this weekend and made 80 saves.
Consolation Game: Yale vs. UConn
After falling to Union in the preliminary round, the Bulldogs were set to take on Connecticut in the tournament’s consolation game. It was a back-and-forth battle throughout as Yale’s senior goaltender Sam Tucker and the Huskies’ freshman goaltender Tomas Vomacka were both tested early.
Connecticut outshot the Bulldogs 15-10 in the first frame, getting on the scoreboard with less than two minutes to go in the period. Senior defenseman Miles Gendron notched his first goal of the year to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead. That lead was washed away just 16 seconds into the second frame when junior forward Luke Stevens tallied his second goal of the season. Sophomore Brett Jewell followed that up with a goal of his own to turn the one-goal deficit into a one-goal lead.
Connecticut was resilient, however. The Huskies’ leading goal-scorer, junior Alexander Payusov, notched his ninth of the season – his first tally in six games. The fruitful man-advantage tied the third-place game at two goals apiece, a tie that didn’t last for long.
Yale sophomore Kevin O’Neil potted back-to-back goals. The first came just minutes after Payusov’s tally while the second was registered just 1:36 into the third frame. Just like that, Yale had a two-goal lead. However, Connecticut senior Max Kalter answered the bell and brought the Huskies within one goal once more midway through the third period.
But it was Yale who put the game out of reach with tallies by the team’s leading producer, senior Joe Snively, and freshman Curtis Hall. The 6-3 victory handed Yale a third-place finish in the tournament and propelled them to a 3-2-2 record early in the season.
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The two losses for Connecticut – the first to BU and second to Yale – were tough pills to swallow. While they gave a valiant effort, the results on the scoreboard knocked them down to a 5-8-1 overall record and a 2-6-1 conference record. The Huskies earned multiple leads in both of their games in Belfast but were not able to hold on to any of them.
Union – 2018 Friendship Four Champions
Union, the No. 11 ranked team in the nation, is just the fourth program to win the Belpot Trophy since the tournament began in 2015. En route to the title, the Dutchmen earned an 8-3-2 record. Other college hockey programs who have earned the same honor include the UMass Lowell River Hawks (2015), Vermont Catamounts (2016), and Clarkson Golden Knights (2017).
Winning an overseas tournament will undoubtedly be a fond memory for Union’s players and coaches. The Belpot Trophy also doesn’t look too bad on the trophy case. Union will use their success in Ireland as a confidence booster as they move on with their quest for the ultimate prize – a national championship.
I cover the Boston Bruins and NCAA Hockey here at The Hockey Writers. Born and raised 10 miles north of Boston, I developed a love for the game of ice hockey at a very young age. There’s really nothing better than this sport, though steak is a close second.