Friendship Four 2022: Who could be future NHL stars at the college tournament?

Northeastern Huskies won the Friendship Four title in 2019
Venues: SSE Arena Belfast Dates: 25-26 November
Coverage: Highlights available on BBC Three and BBC iPlayer on Sunday, 27 November and Monday, 28 November

Massachusetts-Lowell River Hawks. Massachusetts Minutemen. Quinnipiac Bobcats. Dartmouth Big Green.

Four of the best college American ice hockey teams will descend on Belfast for the annual Friendship Four from November 25-26.

The battle for the Belpot Trophy returns after a two-year Covid-enforced hiatus, and this time the 2021 NCAA Division One National champions are coming to town.

With several players from previous editions – the only college tournament to be played outside of North America – now plying their trade in the NHL, who could be the stars of the future in the 2022 competition?

Massachusetts Minutemen – Hockey East

Scott Morrow lifts the Lou Lamoriello trophy after the Hockey East Championship game between the Massachusetts Minutemen and the Connecticut Huskies

When you are NCAA Division One champions in 2021 it is not surprising when your roster gains quite a bit of attention.

The Minutemen have just the 10 players on the books of NHL teams as UMass returns to Belfast for the first time since 2016.

The most promising could be Scott Morrow, who was drafted 40th overall by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2021.

The 20-year-old defenseman, in his sophomore year, could have a big future and was named in the USA roster for the 2022 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships.

Forward Lucas Mercuri is set to join Morrow at the Hurricanes, while Ryan Ufko and Cole O’Hara have been drafted by the Nashville Predators.

Netminder Cole Brady is with the New Jersey Devils while Freshmen Kenny Connors and Tyson Dyck were drafted by the Los Angeles Kings and Ottawa Senators respectively this year.

Defenseman Noah Ellis, of the Vegas Golden Knights, Calgary Flames’ Josh Hodler and Colorado Avalanche forward Taylor Makar complete the 10 players linked to NHL teams.

Despite their recent championship-winning credentials, the Minutemen have only won two of their seven Hockey East games in the new campaign, losing the other five.

UMass Lowell River Hawks – Hockey East

Ben Meehan celebrates scoring a goal for the UMass-Lowell River Hawks
Ben Meehan is in his second season in the colors of UMass-Lowell

The River Hawks have just one NHL name in their ranks, but its’ not a bad one to have as UMass Lowell looks to win the Belpot Trophy and repeat their triumph in the maiden edition of the Friendship Four in 2015.

Ben Meehan is on the books of the Los Angeles Kings and was the 140th pick in the 2020 draft.

The defenseman is in his Junior year at College and has five goals and 17 assists in his season-and-a-half in the colors of Massachusetts-Lowell.

The River Hawks, who arguably have the best nickname of the four teams, head to Northern Ireland fifth in the Hockey East Conference with five victories in eight games.

Quinnipiac Bobcats – ECAC

Rod Brind'Amour and his son, Skyler
Rod Brind’Amour captained the Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup in 2006

Like the Minutemen, defending ECAC regular season champions Quinnipiac are back in Belfast for a second time after featuring in 2015 and have a famous name in their roster.

Skyler Brind’Amour was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers way back in 2017 and his surname comes with plenty of Ice Hockey pedigree.

He’s the son of Rod Brind’Amour, who captained the Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup in 2006 and was an NHL All-Star in 1992.

He also won a gold medal with Canada at the 1994 World Championships, so there’s plenty for 23-year-old forward Skyler, who is now in his senior year, to live up to that.

The Bobcats have two more NHL talents in their ranks, with Freshman duo Sam Lipkin, drafted by the Arizona Coyotes in 2021, and Chase Clark, who was selected by the Washington Capitals that same year.

Quinnipiac heads to Belfast unbeaten in six ECAC matches, and leading the conference, and will hope that form takes them to the Belpot Trophy.

Dartmouth Big Green – ECAC

John Fusco collides with a referee while playing for Harvard
John Fusco, pictured above colliding with a referee, transferred from Harvard ahead of the 2022-23 campaign

Dartmouth are the only newcomers to the Friendship Four, making their debut at this year’s tournament, and have two students linked to NHL sides.

Defenseman John Fusco was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2020 and was an addition to the Big Green’s roster for the 2022-23 college Division One campaign.

Forward Cooper Flinton was selected by Tampa Bay Lightning the following year and follows in his father’s footsteps in playing NCAA Division One hockey.

Like the Bobcats, Dartmouth are in the ECAC but have not had as much success, and have won one and lost three of their five games in the Conference.

Quinnipiac BobcatscDartmouth Big Green
Massachusetts MinutemencMassachusetts-Lowell River Hawks
Final to be played on November 26

Friendship Four champions

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