Friday, November 27, 2015

Former Terriers bring college hockey to Belfast

While the Terriers and Cornell are preparing for the fifth edition of Red Hot Hockey, four other Eastern teams are across the pond in Boston’s sister city, Belfast, playing in the inaugural Friendship Four Tournament, today and Saturday. In the opening round, Northeastern plays UMass-Lowell and Colgate takes on Brown in games that count in their respective conference races.

The event was organized and is being hosted by the Belfast Giants of the UKs Elite Ice Hockey League. Specifically, the organizers are a pair former Terriers, Steve Thornton and Shane Johnson, both of whom played for the Giants and are now members of the team’s management group.

Johnson, who is the Giants’ Project Director, noting the emphasis on “friendship,” says that ice hockey in Ireland is different than other sports that often lead to religious battles ending in violence. He explains: “When the Giants came here, there was still a lot of tension between religious groups. It [hockey] was a sport that wasn’t tied to either religion like rugby or football.”

Thornton, who is the team’s Director of Hockey Operations and formerly a player-coach, points out the tournament’s impact on encouraging home-grown hockey talent, adding: “But if we can open the doors for some of the kids here to go back and get a $250,000 education, it’d be great.”

Both Thornton and Johnson, who ended their on-ice careers with the Giants in 2010, were members of BU’s 1995 national championship team. Johnson was a shutdown defenseman who played in the Frozen Four each of his four seasons in Scarlet. Thornton was voted the MVP of the 1995 squad, which included Mike Grier, Shawn Bates, Chris Drury and Chris O’Sullivan.

Hockey on Campus, hosted by Bernie Corbett, interviewed Thornton about the tournament for its weekly program airing this weekend on SiriusXM (8:00 AM. Saturday, 7:00 AM Sunday ET). It will be available as an archive on the College Hockey News Web site.

● Boston Herald report
● U.TV interview with Thornton (video)
● Thornton goal in 1995 national championship game (video)

Happy sixth birthday to College Hockey Inc

Looking back
There is still an on-ice Terrier connection with the Giants; as former BU wing Chris Higgins, a high-scoring member of the 2009 national championship team, is in his second season with Belfast. In 2013-14, Higgins, known to local fans as the “Belfast Datsyuk," led the Giants to the Elite League championship with 61 points in 55 games.

Looking ahead
SB Nation’s Jeff Cox profiles the New England prep players on the recent NHL Central Scouting Players to Watch list, including 2017 recruit Patrick Harper, who led Avon Old  Farms in scoring last season with 47 points in 22 games. talked with 2016 recruit Dante Fabbro and his Penticton teammate and roommate  Tyler Jost, a North Dakota commit, both projected as early first round picks in next June's draft.

2018 recruit Tyler Weiss scored his seventh goal in nine games as the Don Mills Flyers AAA defeated the London Jr. Knights, 5-1, in the Silver Stick Tournament.

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