The winter sports season at the University of Maine has had more stops and starts than an elevator as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The UMaine men’s hockey team has played only two games and has had eight more canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus.
The Black Bears will finally play another series on Sunday (6 p.m.) and Monday (3 p.m.) at UMass Lowell in a series that was supposed to be held in Orono, but was moved due to the state’s mandate that you can only have 50 people in attendance at an indoor event.
It will be the Black Bears’ first games since a two-game set at New Hampshire on Dec. 11-12 in which they tied the first game 1-1 and then won the shootout and lost the second game 6-2.
But during a Zoom conference with the media on Wednesday, UMaine head hockey coach Red Gendron said the challenges of trying to squeeze in hockey games is nothing in comparison to other people’s challenges.
“It is extremely frustrating not to be able to play, but after feeling sorry for myself and my team for a moment or two, you have to stop and put things into perspective,” he said.
“I have a job and millions of Americans don’t. I know people who have had to shutter their businesses. I know a few people who have died of COVID. I know many who have gotten very sick from it,” he said. “So when I lament what our challenges are and you have that moment where you say ‘What more can they throw at me,’ you have to put it into perspective what it is like for everybody else. We would all do well to do that.”
Gendron’s Black Bears have had more than 50 practices and just two games, but Gendron said one of the positive offshoots has been that they have had more time to work on skill development with the players.
“And I feel they have developed their personal games because of it,” Gendron said.
He said senior center and captain Jack Quinlivan has been one of the top benefactors.
Quinlivan entered this season with just three goals and four assists in 79 career games. Even though he didn’t register a goal or an assist against New Hampshire, Gendron said the improvement in the offensive aspect of his game in practice has been dramatic.
“The game has slowed down for him. He has a much better shot,” Gendron said.
Gendron said his team is extremely excited to play, quipping that they would be willing to walk to UMass Lowell, bags in hand, in order to play.
UMass Lowell has also played just two games, posting a win and a loss.
“Lowell works hard, they play hard, they’re physical and are very disciplined. They don’t beat themselves,” he said. “They execute their systems. They’re a solid team in all respects.”
Following the series, UMaine will travel for a two-game set at Vermont, which will mean four games in seven days.
“I’m not worried about a quick turnaround. We don’t need more practices. We need games,” he said.
UMaine returned to practice on Sunday after quarantining for 10 days to a false-positive rapid antigen test that canceled a two-game series at UMass Lowell.