The University of Maine men’s ice hockey team is finally getting to play at Alfond Arena.

Now, said head coach Red Gendron, the Black Bears will have to play well to keep their season alive.

Maine (3-10-2) will play rival New Hampshire (5-13-3) at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in a Hockey East opening round game in Orono. It will be the first home game of the season for the Black Bears, who received approval Sunday from UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy to play at Alfond Arena.

Previously, the Black Bears had been unable to host games because of the state’s 50-person limit on indoor gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic. But university officials worked with state officials to update game-operation plans and the Black Bears can now play at home, separating the arena into “two indoor gathering spaces for at most 50 people each,” according to a media release on Sunday.

No fans will be allowed, but the game will be televised on WPXT Portland and WFVX FOX 22 Bangor.

Gendron, in his eighth season as UMaine head coach, said playing at home is nice, but not enough to advance in the Hockey East tournament.


“We have to play and play well and be the best version of ourselves in playing the game,” said Gendron. “We’re not going to have success in the game just because playing at the Alfond. We have to execute our opportunities offensively and be in position defensively and play with the necessary grit and composure and confidence and all those things.

“Does it benefit you? I suppose, from familiarity. It’s a different sort of an ice surface from UNH. All of that, although I suspect it matters, but it doesn’t matter as much as us playing our game, playing it well, playing our identity over and over, all of those items.”

Being at home does provide some advantages, such as Maine finally having the final personnel change on faceoffs, so the Black Bears can get the matchups on the ice that they want. But, Gendron said over and over during a Zoom conference call with reporters on Tuesday, all that really matters is that Maine has to play well.

“The fact that we’re playing on a surface we’re accustomed to, and our opponent is not, is an advantage,” said Gendron. “But we have to execute.”

Gendron said the team learned Sunday that they would be playing at home during an off-ice workout at the field house. He wasn’t present, but was told there was a “vocal eruption that suggested ecstasy.”

Last year, Maine was supposed to have its first home playoff series since 2012 but its Hockey East quarterfinal round series against Connecticut was canceled when the pandemic shut down all college sports.

It has been a particularly difficult season for the men’s hockey team. Its season was immediately delayed at the start of the season – its first six games postponed – because of positive COVID-19 test results on campus. Maine’s first games weren’t until Dec. 11 and 12, both at New Hampshire – a 1-1 tie in the opener (Maine winning 3-2 in the shootout) and a 6-2 Wildcats win in the second.

Then the team was placed in quarantine on Dec. 17 after positive test in the program and didn’t play again until Jan. 3. Gendron said the stop-and-go pauses were the season’s “biggest struggle.”

But, he said, “We ended up with a 15-game regular season. They might have all been on the road, but our players, who were recruited to play college hockey, got 15 games. There are college hockey players who got none, their schools choosing not to have seasons. So we have an awful lot to be grateful for.”

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