The departure of five boys ice hockey programs has left Class A with just one statewide division this season.
It is the first time in recent memory there are not separate divisions for Class A North and Class A South.
There were 18 Class A programs a year ago, but there are now only 13. Mike Burnham, executive director of the MPA’s interscholastic division, said two cooperative programs, Skowhegan/Lawrence and Marshwood/Old Orchard Beach/Bonny Eagle, chose not to field teams. Meanwhile, Cheverus, Cony/Monmouth/Hall-Dale and Mt. Ararat/Lisbon/Morse moved to Class B.
That leaves 12 teams in Class B North and 10 in Class B South.
In light of the changes, the MPA chose to follow the model it already has in place for football and lacrosse. There was one statewide Class A division for football this fall and in both boys and girls lacrosse, Classes B and C each compete in one division covering the entire state.
“It’s a good solution,” Burnham said. “The ice hockey schools and [MPA] Ice Hockey Committee continue to look for ways to promote high school hockey.”
The Class A playoff format includes all 13 teams. The 12th seed hosts the 13th seed for a play-in game and the top four seeds earn first-round byes.
In the second round, the No. 5 seed hosts the play-in winner, No. 6 entertains No. 11, No. 7 hosts No. 10 and No. 8 awaits the ninth seed. The four survivors join the top four seeds in the quarterfinals at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston on the weekend of Feb. 28-29, 2020.
The Class A semis are set March 3, 2020, and the state final is March 7, 2020.
The Class A teams are Bangor, Edward Little, defending state champion Saint Dominic Academy, Lewiston, Windham/Westbrook/Bonny Eagle, Biddeford/Massabesic/Old Orchard Beach, Falmouth, Lake Region/Fryeburg Academy/Oxford Hills, Portland/Deering, Scarborough, Thornton Academy, Marshwood/Traip Academy/Sanford/Noble and South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete.
“It will be a little different,” Bangor High coach Quinn Paradis said. “We will have to travel a little farther, but teams will have to travel to play us, too.”
High school hockey teams are allowed to play an 18-game regular-season schedule. The Rams face nine of the other 12 Class A schools and have four games against Class B North teams.
Bangor plays former Class A North rivals Lewiston, Saint Dominic and Edward Little twice apiece, and its Class B opponents are Brewer, Old Town/Orono, Waterville/Winslow and Hampden Academy.
The Class B North semifinals are scheduled Feb. 29, 2020, at Colby College in Waterville. The regional final is March 4, 2020, at Alfond Arena in Orono and the state title game is March 7, 2020, at The Colisee in Lewiston.