Tim Doherty is of Irish-American descent.
But the University of Maine’s sophomore center had never been to the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland until this week when he and his Black Bear teammates ventured to Belfast, Northern Ireland, to play in the third annual Friendship Four Tournament on Friday and Saturday.
The Black Bears, 4-6 overall and 3-3 in Hockey East, will play a league game against Providence College (7-4-1, 4-3-1) at 2 p.m. Friday at the SSE Arena in Belfast.
ECAC foes Clarkson (10-3-1 overall) and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (2-7-1) will square off in the opener at 10 a.m. Friday. It will be a nonconference game for them.
Clarkson is ranked fifth in the country, while Providence is 10th in one major poll and 11th in another.
There is a five-hour time difference between Northern Ireland and the U.S. Eastern Coast.
The consolation game will be 10 a.m. Saturday, with the championship game to follow at 3 p.m.
Doherty wrote in an email that he doesn’t have any relatives in Ireland or Northern Ireland any more but his family flew over for the games.
“The trip has been awesome. Everywhere we’ve gone and all the things that we’ve seen have been pretty incredible,” Doherty wrote. “I had never been to Europe so I didn’t really know what to expect. It’s a lot different than America but the people are really good here and the food is really good, too.”
Doherty wrote Monday was a “long travel day” and the jet lag from the trip was “tough.”
He added that everyone was tired but the team had some “pretty good practices” leading up to the tournament.
He wrote that it has rained ever since they arrived Monday.
The SSE Arena holds 9,000 for hockey and he noted that the rink is “really nice.
“Unfortunately, the ice isn’t too great because there are four teams skating on it every day. But it doesn’t matter to us,” he wrote.
The SSE Arena is the home of the Elite Ice Hockey League’s Belfast Giants and former University of Maine standout Colin Shields is in his ninth season with the Giants after spending his first year with the Newcastle Vipers. He also spent half of the 2012-13 season with the Sheffield Steelers before returning to the Giants.
The 37-year-old Glasgow, Scotland, native scored 29 goals as a freshman at UMaine during the 2001-02 season and wound up with 61 goals and 56 assists in 120 games during his three-year career at UMaine.
Doherty wrote that he and his teammates have done a “pretty good job of handling distractions so far” and they are eager to atone for Saturday’s 7-0 loss to Boston University in Portland.
“Obviously, that wasn’t the outcome we were looking for but we’re turning the page and just forgetting about that and focusing on Providence now. We know that if we use our speed and play our game, we can beat any team in the country,” Doherty wrote.
Doherty and his teammates know they will have their hands full with Providence, which is 13-0-1 in the last 14 meetings with the Black Bears.
“They’re a really fast team and they work incredibly hard so we’re going to have to European ice surface and spread the game out,” Doherty said. “If we make the right decisions, at the right time, we’ll be fine.”
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