Adam Dawe (left) of the University of Maine men's hockey team celebrates a goal with teammate Jakub Sirota during a February game at Alfond Arena in Orono. Hockey East announced plans to go forward with its season on Wednesday. Credit: Courtesy of University of Maine athletics

Hockey East announced plans to go forward with its season on Wednesday and league officials said they will be prioritizing conference games and the completion of a regular-season schedule.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shut down several fall college sports with many of them looking at a spring schedule.

League officials said in a news release that their top priority is the health, safety and physical and mental well-being of the student-athletes as well as everyone else involved in the league.

The league plans to put together multiple schedules for both the men’s and women’s teams which will include additional safety measures and the ability to have maximum scheduling flexibility.

The release stated that the new schedules, including a new starting date, and the regular season specifics will be released at a later date.

Division I schools usually begin the season with organized dry-land training sessions in September including captain’s practices. They also have an allotted amount of time with coaches as mandated by NCAA regulations.

The first official day of practice for the men is usually the first week of October and the first games are the first or second weekend of October.

The women are allowed to start two weeks earlier.

The University of Maine men opened the 2019-20 season against Providence on Oct. 5 and the women on Sept. 27 against New Brunswick.

Hockey East officials indicated they will abide by all federal, state, local and NCAA guidelines while establishing protocols for a return to on-campus workouts and a formalized league-wide return-to-play plan.

Jim Connelly, senior writer for United States College Hockey Online, tweeted that he doesn’t expect any games to be played until mid to late November and the Hockey East men could wind up playing as many as 30 league games.

There are 11 Hockey East men’s teams and each played an unbalanced 24-game schedule last season. They played four teams three times and the other six teams twice.

They could wind up playing every other team three times for the 30 games.

There are 10 teams in the Hockey East women’s league and they play each other three times for 27 league games.

Teams are allowed to play a total of 34 regular season games although there can be additional exempt games, including special tournament contests and games played in Alaska.

Reducing travel is a common priority in dealing with the coronavirus and all the teams in both Hockey East leagues are in New England, so it is conceivable that the presidents of the institutions could suggest eliminating non-league games from their schedules.

UMaine men’s hockey coach Red Gendron and women’s hockey coach Richard Reichenbach said they want to have a season and both applauded Hockey East for its approach and its safety-first stance.

“They want this to work and are willing to be flexible based on what is best for the student athletes and their safety,” Reichenbach said.

“The number one thing is for us to make good decisions relative to the worldwide pandemic. The health and safety of the players and staffs are paramount,” Gendron said. “There are a lot of administrators working in conjunction with university presidents who haven’t had a day off in months. They are working tirelessly to do the right thing based on the circumstances.”