In this October 2019 photo, Cam Spicer of the University of Maine men's hockey team (top) looks to move the puck during a game against Alaska Anchorage. Credit: Mark Tutuny / UMaine Athletics

In a normal season, the first official practice for the University of Maine men’s hockey team is the same week as its first game.

There is nothing normal about this year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has canceled sports seasons or pushed them to a new time of year. UMaine fall sports such as football, soccer and field hockey were moved to the spring.

Hockey East plans to have a season but the earliest game date is Nov. 25 and a schedule hasn’t been released.

Last year, UMaine had played 14 regular-season games and an exhibition by Nov. 25.

This season UMaine, which began practicing on Oct. 14, will have trained together for five-plus weeks before its first game.

“We just focus on what we need to get better at. Hopefully, we’ll be playing games as soon as we can,” UMaine center Jack Quinlivan said.

“We treat every practice like it’s a game,” defenseman Cam Spicer said.

He explained the extra practice time gives the team more time to bond and develop chemistry on and off the ice.

Right wing Eduards Tralmaks said the time practicing and working out with strength and conditioning coach Matt Murray has helped him become stronger than ever.

“[We’ll be] closer to being in midseason shape than in previous years,” he said.

Right wing Kevin Hock said the Black Bears are taking advantage of their time on the ice.

“Games have an extra level of intensity and fun but I think we’ve done a great job coming out every day and practicing as if we have a game coming up that next weekend.”

The players have been wearing face coverings on and off the ice, which took a bit of an adjustment.

“We all have to abide by the guidelines,” defenseman Veli-Matti Tiuraniemi said. “It makes it a little bit tougher. But it might be more effective for our conditioning because it pushes us even further out of our comfort zone.”

The players said the COVID-19 guidelines and protocols put forth by various agencies including the University of Maine System have given them some peace of mind.

“The University has done a great job with the protocols so it was easy for us to make the decision to play,” Quinlivan said. “Coach Red [Gendron] gave us the option to play or opt out but we were excited to get back and get some semblance of normalcy out of the year. We had no second thoughts.”

The energetic and boisterous crowds at Alfond Arena have given the Black Bears a decided home-ice advantage over the years, but there may be no fans or a limited number allowed in the building this season.

“It’s about our attitude and how we approach it,” Spicer said. “There are a lot of teams up here who take just as much pride in the UMaine logo and they don’t get the fans we do. But they’re out there trying to win every game just like we are.”

The Black Bears are coming off a season in which they went 18-11-5 overall, 12-9-3 in Hockey East. They were seeded fourth for the league playoffs, which were canceled because of the pandemic.

UMaine was seeking its first trip to TD Garden for the semifinals since the 2011-12 season.

“Obviously, we got hurt by that. But had we proved that Maine hockey and the [winning] culture was back. We want to build off that this year,” Tralmaks said. “We proved that we could play with the top teams in the country and be one of the best in the country.”