Five 2019 NCAA tournament teams and four clubs that finished last in their respective leagues are on the University of Maine men’s hockey schedule next season.
The Black Bears are slated to take on three familiar teams that reached the tournament — Hockey East members Massachusetts, Providence and Northeastern — along with NCAA qualifiers Quinnipiac and American International College.
UMaine also faces four struggling teams in Alaska Anchorage, Nebraska Omaha, St. Lawrence and Merrimack of Hockey East, all of which ended last season in their league cellars.
The Black Bears encounter a Hockey East schedule rotation in which they play four teams three times apiece and the other six teams twice. UMaine has three games with Providence, Northeastern, Vermont and Connecticut, and takes on Boston University, Boston College, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, UMass Lowell and Merrimack twice apiece.
Last season, UMaine played BU, BC, UMass and UNH three times, and the others two times.
The Hockey East schedule is formidable with the likes of national runner-up and conference regular-season champion UMass (31-10), along with Providence (24-12-6) and league tourney winner Northeastern (27-11-1), which tied for second place in the regular season.
“It’s a good schedule,” UMaine head coach Red Gendron said. “With the parity in college hockey now, there are no nights off. We will play anybody, but if we go to their place for a series, they have to be willing to come back to our place for one.”
UMaine went 15-17-4 last season and finished sixth in Hockey East at 11-9-4. The Black Bears were swept by eventual league tournament champ Northeastern in their best-of-three quarterfinal series.
The nonconference schedule features ECAC team Quinnipiac (26-10-2), which beat UMaine twice last season in Orono. It will be the fifth straight time the two teams have played twice during the regular season.
Gendron enjoys the rivalry with Quinnipiac.
“The most important thing is you know they are going to be a good opponent every year,” Gendron said.
The arrangement also means two fewer games he has to schedule every year.
AIC (23-17-1), the Atlantic Hockey titlist, upset top seed St. Cloud State 2-1 in the NCAA tournament before being ousted by Denver. The Yellow Jackets visit Alfond Arena on Sunday, Dec. 29.
UMaine hosts Alaska Anchorage (3-28-3) of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association on Oct. 11-12 and entertains Nebraska Omaha (9-24-3) of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference on Jan. 3, 2020, in Orono and the next day at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.
UMaine visits St. Lawrence (6-29-2) of the ECAC Hockey League for games Nov. 29-30. The other nonconference game is Tuesday, Dec. 10, at Yale (15-15-3) of the ECAC.
That, and a Jan. 15, 2020, contest at UConn (12-20-2), are the two midweek games on the schedule.
The Black Bears’ Hockey East schedule is an odd one. After splitting its first eight league games, four at home and four on the road, they play seven consecutive conference road games, followed by seven in a row at home.
UMaine then closes out the campaign with two games against Providence, one on the road and the last one in Orono on the last weekend of the regular season.
UMaine also plays two exhibition games, hosting Canadian national champion the University of New Brunswick on Oct. 6 and the USA Hockey National Team Development Program’s Under-18 squad Jan. 11, 2020.
UMaine opens the season at Providence on Saturday, Oct. 5.
The Black Bears return five of their top nine scorers and goalie Jeremy Swayman but lost five of their top seven defensemen.