BURLINGTON, Vt. — For seven weeks, Bill Norman was a game-day spectator for the University of Maine hockey team.

The Black Bears pulled him out of hibernation last weekend after defenseman Eric Schurhamer suffered a season-ending injury in Friday’s loss at Providence College.

Norman had one tune-up game in Saturday’s rematch with the Friars, and now will be called on to help Maine try to upset No. 17 Vermont when the Hockey East playoffs begin Friday at Gutterson Fieldhouse.

“I feel bad for Eric, but obviously I’m excited to play again,” said Norman, a redshirt junior who saw action in eight games this season. “I feel like I did my job. There’s a few things in the defensive zone that I need to think more about. I made some plays and got some chances offensively.”

Norman, at 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, is an undersized defenseman who relies on the passing and puck-handling abilities he learned growing up in his native Sweden. He is paired with the bulky Dan Renouf (6-2, 205).

Maine (13-20-3) will need all the physicality it can muster in this weekend’s best-of-three series. Vermont (18-12-4) beat Maine four times in November by a combined score of 18-8. The Black Bears were swept last weekend by Providence, a team similar in style to the Catamounts. The Friars also swept Maine out of last season’s conference playoffs.

Maine hasn’t always responded well against bruising opponents.

“We need to know that it’s going to be a bar fight. It’s going to be tough. It’s not going to be a real finesse game,” said Maine defenseman Jake Rutt. “I think it’s going to come down to who wins more puck battles, whether it’s in front of the net or in the corners. It really depends on if we have our skating legs or not. Obviously, we’re not the biggest team, but we’re a pretty fast team.”

The good news for Maine is that Vermont has struggled since the calendar turned to 2015, going 4-8-3 while averaging 2.3 goals per game. Rutt expects to see the November version of the Catamounts this weekend, however.

“That’s their true identity. They’re a hard-nosed, fast-paced team,” he said.

Playoff hockey tends to produce tighter games, and Norman is aware of that. He played in one of the playoff losses in Providence a year ago.

“Everyone tries to make the simple plays, there’s not too much advanced play,” Norman said.

Rutt, a senior assistant captain from Scarborough, is one Black Bear who relishes close-quarters play, who enjoys initiating contact. He is second on the team with 39 penalty minutes.

He has confidence in Norman.

“He played very well and he fit in on the power play and he was very good defensively and he moved the puck,” Rutt said. “That’s something that we kind of pride ourselves on, is the depth, because our practices are very high-tempo and the compete level is high. So if a guy goes down because of injury or his lack of play, he can always be replaced by a guy that’s just as good.”

Norman, who came to Minnesota as an exchange student five years ago and caught the eye of the Maine coaching staff, will get his chance to earn that praise this weekend. He redshirted his first winter in Orono and put on 20 pounds, played 26 games the next year and another 20 games last year before seeing his playing time diminish. He has three career goals.

“In Sweden, they think a lot more possession of the puck and holding the puck … and wait for the open guy. Here’s a lot more speed. You just get the puck out and dump it in and chase,” Norman said. “I had to learn to keep up with the speed. I like to think of myself as a playmaker. I hold the puck a little longer to find a good play instead of just chipping it out.

“I’m not that physical, but I can still win pucks.”

That’s precisely what Maine will need from him this weekend.