ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine men’s hockey team and archrival New Hampshire will play each other four times during the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 seasons.
The arrangement will include one nonleague game each year at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland and the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, N.H.
They also will play one league game each at UNH’s Whittemore Center and Maine’s Alfond Arena each season.
Maine coach Red Gendron and UNH coach Dick Umile came up with the idea for the games in Portland and Manchester. The two-year arrangement will start with the games being played a couple of weeks apart in December.
Hockey East has reduced its number of league games from 27 to 20 beginning this season with the addition of the University of Notre Dame as its 11th team. There will be 22 league games beginning in 2014-15 with the inclusion of its 12th team, the University of Connecticut.
Teams are allowed to play 34 countable games under NCAA guidelines, so compiling a nonleague schedule can be a challenge.
“There is a lot of pressure on us to find nonleague games,” said Gendron. “Dick and I talked about it and we said each of us has a pro rink so what about having nonleague games in Portland and Manchester.”
The Portland Pirates, the top affiliate of the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes, play at the Cumberland County Civic Center while the Manchester Monarchs, affiliated with the Los Angeles Kings, play at the Verizon Wireless Arena.
“It’s a win-win for everybody,” said Umile. “The rivalry is one of the best in college hockey so if you have an opportunity to play extra games, it’s a natural for both of us.”
“We’re hoping to fill both buildings,” said Gendron. “This will be good for both programs financially. And any time we can play a game in the southern part of the state, it’s a home run for us because we have a lot of fans down there.”
Likewise, Umile said they have a lot of fans in Manchester, N.H., and they usually play a game there every year against in-state rival Dartmouth College.
Maine and New Hampshire have met 115 times with Maine holding a 59-50-6 advantage.
Maine athletic director Steve Abbott called it a great idea and praised the two coaches for putting it together.
“It has huge potential. It’s going to be great for the schools and a great service for the fans,” said Abbott, who hopes it continues beyond the two-year arrangement.
Abbott said the school will work out a deal with the civic center to share the proceeds from the ticket sales, which pay for the facility rental. Concessions usually go to the venue.
“We’re looking to make money and it doesn’t have to sell out to be profitable,” said Abbott, who thinks both venues will draw extremely well.
Maine has averaged 6,100 fans in its last 10 visits to the 6,733-seat facility and is 9-0-1 in those 10 games. The Black Bears are 12-0-3 over the last 15 visits.
The CCCC is undergoing a $33 million renovation and will host the prestigious Ice Breaker Tournament during 2015-2016. That signifies the start of the college hockey season and could set the stage for a future bid to host an NCAA hockey regional for the first time.
They will add three locker rooms to feature eight, and that is vital in attempting to host a four-team regional. The Pirates occupy two locker rooms.
There have been five regionals held at the Verizon Wireless Arena.
Abbott said hosting games against an archrival would be “another feather in [the CCCC’s] cap” and could serve as a positive factor in a bid to host a regional.