J.D. Greenway of the University of Maine men's hockey team moves the puck along the boards against defensive pressure from the University of Vermont's Andrew Lucas during a Hockey East game at Gunderson Fieldhouse in Burlington, Vermont. Credit: Courtesy of the University of Vermont Athletics

The Hockey East Association on Wednesday revealed its postseason tournament plans for a season that has been severely hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The league has decided to conduct its men’s and women’s hockey tournaments using a single-elimination format. The higher-seeded teams will earn the right to host the games.

To determine those seedings, the league will utilize a newly developed mathematical formula it is calling the Hockey East Power Index.

Hockey East decided earlier this season that all participating teams will qualify for the postseason during the pandemic. 

“The 2020-21 season has presented new challenges each day and Hockey East has done everything in our power to ensure a safe and fulfilling experience for our student-athletes in this difficult year,” Hockey East Commissioner Steve Metcalf said. “Inviting all teams into the Hockey East Tournament and using the Hockey East Power Index to seed each program respects the importance and integrity of each regular-season game. Ultimately, our goal is to provide the best experience possible for our student-athletes.”

The UMaine men’s team has not played a game since Jan. 23 because of COVID-19 cases. The Black Bears have a 2-7-1 record.

The women’s squad (5-7) is scheduled to play Saturday and Sunday at Merrimack.

UMaine men’s coach Red Gendron and women’s head coach Richard Reichenbach believe the league came up with a good format.

“Having everybody make the playoffs makes a lot of sense because it was impossible to come up with an equitable schedule,” Gendron said. “Single elimination obviously makes sense, too, as do the dates.

“And this ensures that every player has a playoff experience,” Gendron said.

The Hockey East men’s tournament will begin on March 10 with opening-round games involving the Nos. 6-11 seeds. The top five seeds determined by the Hockey East Power Index automatically qualify for the quarterfinals.

Teams must complete their regular seasons by March 7.

The teams will be reseeded for the quarterfinals slated for March 14 to be followed by the semifinals on March 17 and the championship game on March 20. 

The format was unanimously approved by Hockey East members in consultation with medical personnel and administrators. Mandatory daily league-wide testing days throughout the duration of the postseason are among the strict health and safety protocols that will be in place.

The winner of each tournament will receive Hockey East’s automatic bids into the NCAA Division I tournaments.

Following the conclusion of the regular season on Feb. 21, the Hockey East women’s tournament will begin on Feb. 24 with opening-round games matching the Nos. 7 and 10 and Nos. 8 and 9 seeds.

The Nos. 1-6 seeds receive a bye into the quarterfinals, for which all remaining teams will be reseeded before play on Feb. 28. The semifinals and finals are scheduled for March 3 and March 6, respectively.

“The league has done an excellent job handling this season and the HE power index and playoff format are another example of the weighing of many options, researching and coming up with the best format for the different schools and the student-athletes,” Reichenbach said.

The Hockey East Power Index is a customized mathematical formula never before used in college sports that was created specifically to more accurately rank Hockey East teams based on the 2020-21 league schedule format. The index was developed to help account for the unbalanced schedule that resulted from COVID-19 issues.

The formula takes into consideration the number of games played, wins and losses in regulation, overtime and shootouts, and a team’s home and away split. It then values wins and losses based on each team’s strength of schedule and their opponents’ strength of schedule.

At the conclusion of the regular season, the team with the highest ranking will be declared the 2020-21 regular-season champion.

“This whole year has been strange for obvious reasons. Injuries are a part of any season but, this year, we’ve also had situations where people are off for extended periods of time because of COVID protocols,” Gendron said. “I just hope every team can have a full complement of players in the playoffs so we can determine a league champion.”

Last year, there were best-of-three quarterfinal series at the site of the highest seeds followed by semifinals and a championship game at one site for both the men and the women.