A rendering of the Harold Alfond Sports Arena at the University of Maine. Credit: Courtesy of the University of Maine

The University of Maine men’s hockey team will play its first home game of the season on Wednesday when it hosts the University of New Hampshire in a Hockey East first-round game.

The single-elimination game will begin at either 4:30 p.m. or 7 p.m.

“We are all really excited and grateful for this opportunity,” said UMaine head coach Red Gendron. “We have an attitude of gratitude.”

UMaine said the determination of allowing the game was reached through updates to UMaine game operation plans and ongoing interpretation and clarification of the state’s COVID-19 guidance by university leaders in consultation with state officials.

The arena will be separated into two indoor gathering spaces containing a maximum of 50 people each to comply with state COVID-19 guidelines.

Only personnel deemed essential will be allowed in the facility during the contest. In addition to state requirements, the university is complying with the COVID-19 health and safety protocols put in place by the NCAA and Hockey East.

“Our Black Bear hockey teams have been road warriors all season and we are pleased to provide our men’s team with a chance to start the playoffs with home ice advantage,” UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy said. “We are very proud of our student-athletes and how they have worked so hard with coaches and staff to be leaders in our public health campaign this year.”

The UMaine men’s and women’s hockey teams were the only Hockey East teams that weren’t able to play home games this season because of the state-mandated limit of 50 persons for indoor gatherings.

The UMaine men’s team (3-10-2) earned a come-from-behind 3-3 tie and shootout win over No. 6 Massachusetts on Saturday to earn the eighth seed for the playoffs. UNH (5-13-3) is the No. 10 seed.

The playoffs were set up to have the eighth seed host the ninth seed but Merrimack College, which is the ninth seed, had a COVOD-19 outbreak and couldn’t participate in the playoffs.

Gendron said his team deserves this opportunity because of the adversity it has overcome and the seeding it has earned, but he stressed the Black Bears didn’t feel they were entitled to anything.

“There have been bigger things going on,” Gendron said of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We have never felt cheated. We have been grateful to play 15 games because that’s 15 more than a lot of teams.

“As a group, we played the cards we were dealt. The circumstances have been different this year and nobody knows that better than we do.”

The game will be televised, broadcast locally on the Black Bear Sports Network, and audio livestreamed at GoBlackBears.com.