The University of Maine men’s hockey team is scheduled to host the University of Massachusetts Nov. 20-21 for a two-game series to open its 20-game Hockey East schedule.
Brian Smith, associate commissioner of Hockey East and the director of media relations, said Tuesday the league schedule will be released later this week.
Women’s teams will play 18 conference contests.
Teams will play two games against each league opponent. There are 11 men’s teams and 10 women’s teams.
Smith said all of the teams, except geographic outliers UMaine and Vermont, will play home-and-home against the same opponent during a weekend set.
UMaine and Vermont will play a two-game series against each opponent, whether at home or at the opponents’ rink.
Teams also will be expected to travel on the day of the game.
“Everyone involved in the UMaine hockey program wants to be able to play,” UMaine head coach Red Gendron said. “We’re excited about that possibility.
Hockey East schools will be allowed to play non-conference games but only against conference teams.
However, UMaine has not yet been cleared to compete.
“We are fully aware that the final decision rests with our university president [Joan Ferrini-Mundy] and her discretion,” Gendron said. “University presidents face a heavy burden making these decisions. A lot of people have done a lot of work to make this a possibility. We’re optimistic but we understand things can change through this pandemic. We’ve learned that what is the situation today can be very different tomorrow,” he added.
Hockey East is planning to have playoffs but they haven’t made a formal decision on how those would play out, Smith said. The men’s semifinals and championship game are still booked at the TD Garden in Boston but that could change.
Last season, the top eight teams qualified for the Hockey East playoffs, which were canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. The league scheduled a three-game quarterfinal series followed by semifinals and a championship game at one site (TD Garden for men, Merrimack College for women).
Smith said league officials, school athletic administrators and medical professionals have been in contact and have closely monitored the COVID-19 protocols in place for each state and each institution.
Whether face coverings will need to be worn or whether spectators will be allowed has not been determined. A meeting is scheduled Thursday to firm up the guidelines.
“The medical committee has recommended that everyone wears a mask and it looks like we won’t have any spectators at least at the outset of the season,” Smith said.
Teams have been practicing for two months and UMaine players have been doing so while wearing face coverings.
Smith said state and local rules would dictate whether media are allowed at games, although it appears visiting media wouldn’t be allowed at game sites.
The league will livestream all Hockey East games, which will be available for free via the internet.
Smith said even though Nov. 20 is listed as the starting date for games, some schools have deferred to a later date. Hockey East plans to be flexible with rearranging the schedule if needed because of changes in COVID-19 guidelines.
Conference games will be paired so that if two men’s teams are playing at one venue, the women’s squads would compete the same day at the other school’s rink.
Smith said players will be tested at least three times a week and that Hockey East has developed a 40-page document covering various COVID-19 protocols for everyone from team personnel to the rink Zamboni drivers.
“We want to make sure the players can have the best experience possible under safe conditions,” Smith said.
Hockey East is composed of teams from all six New England states. Six of the 11 men’s schools and five of the 10 women’s programs are based in Massachusetts.
Each league has one team apiece from the other five New England states.
There are seven games in other parts of the country scheduled for the coming weekend. Among them, Notre Dame hosts Wisconsin for two Big Ten games and Michigan entertains Arizona State for a pair.