Ben Barr, the former associate head coach at the University of Massachusetts, has been hired as the head men's ice hockey coach at the University of Maine. Credit: Courtesy of Thomas Kendall

Here’s a cooling thought amid an early summer heat wave.

The University of Maine 2021-22 men’s ice hockey schedule has been released, and the Black Bears’ first game at Alfond Arena on the Orono campus is barely three months away.

That exhibition contest, an Oct. 3 date against the University of Prince Edward Island, precedes a 34-game regular season with 24 contests against Hockey East opponents — including reigning national champion University of Massachusetts and fellow 2021 NCAA Tournament qualifiers Boston College and Boston University.

The Black Bears’ conference schedule consists of three games each against Boston College, Boston University, Merrimack College and University of Massachusetts Lowell and two games apiece against University of New Hampshire, Northeastern University, Providence College, University of Connecticut, UMass and University of Vermont.

UMaine opens the regular season on Oct. 8-9 with two road games against a fourth qualifier from last season’s NCAA tournament, the University of Nebraska Omaha from the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

Other non-conference opponents involve two-game series at home against Sacred Heart University (Oct. 22-23), Union College (Dec. 10-11) and University of Alaska Fairbanks (Jan. 7-8, 2022), and a first-ever series with Big Ten Conference foe Penn State on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day at State College, Pennsylvania.

The Black Bears will play 17 games this coming season at Alfond Arena, with an additional home date at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland against UMass Lowell on Nov. 27.

“Seeing the schedule for the 2021-22 season released is very energizing for our hockey program,” said first-year UMaine head coach Ben Barr , who was hired in May to replace the late Red Gendron.

“Every game in Hockey East is very difficult and every non-conference matchup poses a different challenge. Maybe the most exciting part of the schedule will be playing back at the Alfond in front of the best fans in college hockey.”

UMaine will look to bounce back from its 3-11-2 finish in a COVID-abbreviated 2020-21 season that concluded with its lone home game of the winter, a 7-2 loss to New Hampshire in the first round of the Hockey East playoffs.

The Black Bears will begin their 2021-22 Hockey East schedule at Northeastern on Oct. 29-30, then host back-to-back league series against UConn (Nov. 5-6) and Merrimack (Nov. 12-13) before traveling to Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, for two games at Boston College (Nov. 19-20).

After its single game in Portland against UMass Lowell on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, UMaine will play its final Hockey East home games of 2021 on Dec. 3-4 against Vermont before hosting Eastern College Athletic Conference foe Union on Dec. 10-11 to conclude first-semester play.

The Black Bears will ring in the new year at Penn State on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, then host another non-conference series against Western Collegiate Hockey Association entry Alaska Fairbanks on Jan. 7-8.

UMaine will travel to UMass Lowell for its second and third games of the season against the River Hawks on Jan. 14 and 15, then have a week off before returning home for a single game against Boston College on Jan. 28.

That’s followed by four consecutive road games for the Black Bears, beginning with a trip to Massachusetts for single games at Boston University on Feb. 4 and Merrimack on Feb. 5.

UMaine then heads to Amherst, Massachusetts, for a two-game series on Feb. 11-12 at UMass, where Barr served as associate head coach before he was hired to lead the Black Bears’ program this spring.

UMaine returns home to renew its Border Battle rivalry against New Hampshire with games on Feb. 18-19, then plays its final road games at Providence (Feb. 25-26) before concluding the regular season at home against Boston University (March 4-5).

The single-elimination Hockey East Tournament will begin next March 9.

“After all that has happened in the past year and a half, we hope having Maine Black Bear hockey back in town can be something that brings the community together once again,” Barr said.

Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...