ORONO – The Black Bears were scheduled to host No. 7 UMass, starting Nov. 20.
UMaine men’s hockey will not open its Hockey East schedule as planned, per a release from the university on Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s been a frustrating go for our students, I know that, but to know that we’re going to be able to initiate seasons here is something of a piece of news we’ve been waiting for for a long time,” said Ken Ralph, UMaine Athletic Director. “We’ve put together plan after plan after plan. This has been constant. It seems like every time you did a plan it was outdated three hours later and you ripped it up and started from scratch.”
The team will now open its season starting Nov. 27 at UConn, and while the schedule may have changed, the day-to-day approach has not.
“There might be weekends where it’s up in the air, maybe we don’t know, but as soon as you enter that rink, you gotta clear your mind and your speculations and questions and you have to get ready to practice that day to the best of your ability,” said Jack Quinlivan, senior forward for the Black Bears.
In a statement, UMaine president Joan Ferrini-Mundy said on the decision: “We are incredibly proud of our student athletes and very much want to see our Maine Black Bears begin their winter seasons. We are assessing each opportunity for our teams to compete within the context of rising COVID case counts and the threat of community transmission. “We are working with our athletic conferences, UMaine Athletics, our safety professionals and stakeholders to determine next steps for our teams.”
The decision was made as the University of Maine System works to limit on-campus activity before students leave for Thanksgiving break. The women’s hockey team will still travel to Worcester this weekend to play Holy Cross.
“The plan we have is evergreen, and we’re going to adjust as local conditions dictate,” Ralph said.
With rising COVID-19 cases around the state and a reinstated executive order limiting indoor gatherings to 50 people statewide, the local conditions will create a challenge for both teams to host games at Alfond Arena this season. That said, the feeling among UMaine Athletics is positive, knowing that for the first time since March there is a concrete date on circled on the calendar.
“We’re all thankful for a variety of things on Thanksgiving…when we play on Friday night that’s certainly something we’re thankful for,” said Red Gendron, UMaine men’s hockey head coach.