University of Maine men's hockey player Jack Quinlivan (left) takes a faceoff against Northeastern's John Picking during a game last season at Alfond Arena in Orono. The Black Bears may have to play their home games outside Maine this season because of the state's indoor gathering limit of 50 people. Credit: Courtesy of Peter Buehner

The Hockey East Association on Tuesday announced that all teams will qualify for the league tournament in both the men’s and women’s divisions.

The change was made to help accommodate the uneven number of games schools are expected to play while maneuvering around COVID-19 cases and safety protocols.

Hockey East originally planned to have only the top eight teams in both divisions qualify for the playoffs. In addition, all games that previously were listed as “flex” games that will now count as league contests. That includes games that have already been played.

Hockey East Commissioner Steve Metcalf said including all teams in the tournament is the right thing to do.

“The 2020-21 season has presented new challenges each day and Hockey East has done everything in our power to ensure a safe and fulfilling experience for our student-athletes in this difficult year,” Metcalf said. “Inviting all teams into the Hockey East tournament, and using all games played to determine seeding, gives our players the best possible experience of postseason competition while respecting the importance of each regular-season game.”

The league will determine tournament seeding based on the points-per-game average. This year, under the new overtime format that features a five-minute 3-on-3 followed by a shootout, teams receive three points for a win in regulation and two for a win in overtime or the shootout.

The team that loses in overtime or the shootout receives one point toward the standings.

The total number of points earned, divided by the number of games played, will determine where teams are positioned.

Hockey East also has altered the schedule for games involving the University of Maine hockey teams.

The Black Bear men will play two games at UMass Lowell this weekend instead of one and the women’s hockey team will play a two-game set at Providence College instead of hosting the Friars.

The state-imposed limit of 50 persons for indoor gatherings during the pandemic means UMaine is unable to hold a hockey game at Alfond Arena or any rink in the state.

The UMaine men played at New Hampshire last weekend rather than host the Wildcats in Orono as originally scheduled. The Black Bears also were forced to cancel their season-opening home series against the University of Massachusetts.

UMaine has two series at UNH and UMass scheduled later this season.

Rather than play a single 6 p.m. game Saturday at UMass Lowell, the Black Bears also will have a 4 p.m. contest Sunday.

The UMaine women (3-1-0) will play at 6 p.m. Friday at Providence and at 4 p.m. on Saturday.