The University of Maine men’s hockey team will play only one game this weekend to end the regular season.
The Black Bears face the University of Massachusetts at 2:30 p.m. Friday.
UMaine and UMass are among eight Hockey East teams that will play just once this weekend.
Hockey East associate commissioner Brian Smith said the sentiment among coaches was to play one game instead of two, since the first round of the playoffs begin on March 10. The three lower-seeded teams will have to travel.
The University of New Hampshire won’t be able to play this week due to COVID-19 related issues. Vermont and Merrimack plan to play a two-game set.
“It makes sense for us because we have to turn around and travel again on Wednesday,” UMaine head coach Red Gendron said of playing once.
Playing two games followed by a five-hour bus ride on Saturday, only to have to go back on the road Tuesday, would have been challenging.
UMass is ranked sixth in the country.
“It’s good to play against teams that put pressure on you to put forth your best effort and require you to stretch yourself and UMass certainly does that,” Gendron said.
He hopes to regain the services of No. 3 scorers Eduards Tralmaks (5 goals, 4 assists) and Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup (3 & 6) for the first time since Jan. 23. The reason for their absence has not been divulged.
“It will help our team and will help them prepare for the playoffs. No matter how diligent you are in practice in trying to replicate game tempo and intensity, it’s virtually impossible to do,” Gendron said.
All Hockey East teams are included in the playoff field this year. The tourney features single-elimination games at home sites of the higher seeds instead of best-of-three quarterfinal series followed by semifinals and the championship game at the TD Garden in Boston.
The top five seeds will receive byes, meaning the Nos. 6-11 play Saturday. The field will be re-seeded for the quarterfinals.
UMaine is 3-10-1 and ninth in the Hockey East Power Index at 45.39, slightly behind No. 8 Merrimack (45.51). UMass (13-5-3) is third.
The Black Bears will be on the road for the playoffs as the state’s 50-person indoor gathering limit won’t allow for them to host games in Orono. However, Smith said if UMaine is a higher seed, the league’s games committee will discuss allowing UMaine to have the last line change, a benefit given to the home team.
“It has already been discussed on the women’s side because if Maine and UConn won their semifinals, Maine would be the higher seed but the championship game would be played at UConn,” Smith said.