The University of Maine men’s hockey team must wait at least one more week before it returns to Hockey East action.
UMaine hasn’t been able to practice since its last game on Jan. 23 at Boston University. Due to COVID-19 issues, UMaine administrators on Jan. 25 paused competitions for its winter sports teams until at least Thursday.
The Black Bears could return to practice this week.
The UMaine women’s hockey team has been cleared to play this weekend. The Black Bears (5-6) will play at Connecticut (5-9-1) at 4 p.m. Friday and at 3 p.m. Saturday.
The women last played Jan. 24, posting a 2-0 win at Boston University after a 1-0 loss the previous day.
UMaine teams that have not had a COVID-19 case or a presumptive positive test have been allowed to practice during the competition pause. They must go through COVID-19 protocols including contact tracing and further testing.
Practice sessions involve only players who were not infected, quarantined or involved in contact tracing. Or, if there are widespread cases, all team activities could be suspended and players would only be allowed to work out on their own.
Hockey East associate commissioner Brian Smith said the league is sensitive to rushing a team back into games if it has had an extended layoff from organized practice due to COVID-19 concerns.
“We aren’t going to schedule games on a Friday and a Saturday for a team that comes back for its first practice on that Thursday,” Smith said.
He believes the UMaine men’s team could be ready to play the weekend of Feb. 13-14. The Black Bears (2-7-1) have yet to play league opponents Merrimack, Massachusetts, Northeastern, Boston College and Connecticut.
Smith said Hockey East requires teams to have a minimum of 15 skaters and two goalies in uniform to play a game, although a team can petition to play with fewer.
The UMaine women had 14 skaters and two goalies on Jan. 17 in 3-2 overtime loss to No. 4 Northeastern.
UMaine hockey teams have been prevented by the state’s indoor gathering limit of 50 persons to play any home games this season.