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Top US ice hockey college tournament Belfast-bound

FUTURE stars of ice hockey are coming to Belfast for the first major college tournament ever to take place outside the US. The Friendship Four will see top

universities from the prestigious National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) play for the Belpot Trophy at the Odyssey Arena, home of the Belfast Giants, over Thanksgiving weekend in November.

This will be a world first for the NCAA as it is the first time the league has taken to the ice outside the US for competitive games.

UMass Lowell, Northeastern University, Brown University and Colgate University have all agreed to play.

Each team competes in the NCAA division 1, the top level of university ice hockey.

Tournament organisers are aiming to generate around £200,000 for Belfast with 7,000 spectators expected to attend.

Lord Mayor of Belfast Arder Carson is undertaking his first civic visit to Belfast's sister city of Boston this weekend to officially announce details of the event.

"The sister city agreement which we signed with Boston last May is designed to foster stronger economic development, trade and investment, tourism, youth, cultural, faith based exchange and educational linkages between our two cities," he said.

"Bringing this prestigious tournament to Belfast is one of the first substantive results of the agreement, and

we are delighted that, even before the first puck has been hit, there already is a commitment to play it here for a further four years."

Odyssey Trust chairman Eric Porter

added: "The Friendship Four will be the first time that teams at this standard of ice hockey will play in Belfast and we expect our fans to be very excited about seeing it at their home

arena. It is an opportunity to give back to the communities that have supported us over the years and we truly want to make this an event that is open to all."

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