Adam Dawe (left) of the University of Maine men's hockey team celebrates with teammate Jakub Sirota after scoring a goal during a 2019 game at Alfond Arena in Orono. Credit: Peter Buehner / UMaine athletics

It was March 6, 2020.

In front of a sellout crowd of 5,050 at the University of Maine’s Alfond Arena, Jeremy Swayman made 48 saves and Mitch Fossier scored the game’s only goal with 10:39 left in regulation to give the Black Bears a 1-0 victory over Providence College on Seniors Night.

That would earn UMaine the fourth seed in the Hockey East playoffs and a best-of-three quarterfinal home series against the University of Connecticut.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the rest of the season.

On Friday night, for the first time since that game, the energetic Alfond Arena crowd will get to see the Black Bears in action as first-year coach Ben Barr and his team will make their Alfond Arena debut in front of fans when they entertain Sacred Heart (Connecticut) from Atlantic Hockey in the first of a two-game series.

They will play at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 5 p.m. Saturday.

Fans will have to provide proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 PCR test within the previous 72 hours and they must wear masks covering their mouth and nose.

UMaine played all of its 15 regular season games on the road last season due to COVID-19 restrictions in the state, and when it finally did get to play at home for a first-round Hockey East playoff game, fans weren’t allowed to attend. The University of New Hampshire won 7-2.

UMaine is 0-2 following a pair of losses at Nebraska Omaha two weekends ago while Sacred Heart is 1-3 coming off a split series against nationally ranked Boston University.

UMaine senior defenseman Simon Butala said playing in front of the vociferous fans at the Alfond Arena is special.

“You don’t know how awesome it is until you get to experience it. I’m really excited to see the look on faces of the freshmen and sophomores who haven’t experienced it yet,” Butala said.

Keenan Suthers will be playing his first home game in a Black Bears uniform but he already knows that it’s like to play at Alfond Arena on opening night.

Suthers transferred from St. Lawrence and when he was with the Saints, they opened the 2018 season in Orono against the Black Bears. UMaine won 3-1 and completed the sweep with a 4-1 triumph the next night.

“We were confused when they were announcing the starting lineups. You couldn’t hear anything so we didn’t know whose names were being called out,” Suthers said of the crowd noise.

“It’s going to be exciting wearing a Maine uniform this time,” the 6-foot-8 forward added.

Forwards Donavan Houle and Lynden Breen are two sophomores who haven’t yet experienced an Alfond Arena crowd, although they did play in the empty Alfond against UNH.

Breen scored one of the two goals against UNH.

“I can’t wait,” Houle said. “One of the reasons I decided to come to Maine was because of the crowds.”

Butala has told the freshmen and sophomores what to expect and the advice he gave them was to just enjoy the moment.

“Soak it up. You’re only here for four years so you want to take advantage of every game here,” Butala said.

Barr is looking forward to his first home game on the Black Bear bench after spending time on the opposing bench when he was an assistant at Hockey East rivals University of Massachusetts and Providence.

“It’s exciting. It has been a long time,” Barr said. “This place means a lot to the university, the community and the state. I just want to make sure our guys go in with the right mindset and give their best effort in front of the people who support them.”

Butala said the Black Bears know they will be facing a good opponent, saying “anybody can beat anyone else in college hockey.”

He added that they have to make Sacred Heart “earn their scoring chances” and not make mistakes that lead to them.

Adam Dawe, Ben Poisson, Grant Hebert and Brad Morrissey have scored UMaine’s goals and defensemen David Breazeale and Jakub Sirota each have two assists. Victor Ostman played both games in goal and made 48 saves on 56 shots.

Sacred Heart, coached by C.J. Marottolo, was 6-10-2 a year ago and lost to UConn 6-3 and Merrimack 4-2 this season before splitting at BU, winning 3-2 and losing 4-1.

The team is led by former Atlantic Hockey Rookie of the Year Braeden Tuck, who has three goals, along with Austin Magera (1 goal, 3 assists), Ryan Steele (2 & 1) and defenseman Logan Britt (1 & 2). Justin Robbins (1-2, 3.49 goals against average, .880 save percentage) and Josh Benson (0-1, 3.64, .868) are the goalies.