Hockey East released its schedules for the 2020-21 men’s and women’s seasons on Wednesday, but University of Maine teams are still unsure if they will be able to play this winter during the coronavirus pandemic.

The men’s hockey team is scheduled to open at Alfond Arena next weekend, Nov. 20-21, with a two-game series against Massachusetts. The women’s team is also scheduled to open on Nov. 20-21, at Holy Cross.

University of Maine men’s hockey players and fans celebrate a game-tying goal during a 2019 game against Nebraska Omaha in Portland. The team’s 2020-21 season is scheduled to start on Nov. 20, but it remains unclear whether any UMaine athletic teams will be able to compete this winter. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer  Buy this Photo

University of Maine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy, however, has yet to announce whether the Black Bears will be able to compete in any winter sports.

Dan Demeritt, the executive director for public relations for the UMaine system, said in an email that “a final determination has not been made yet.

“Safety is the paramount concern with community transmission and COVID-19 cases on the rise,” Demeritt said in the email. “President Ferrini-Mundy is in the midst of a detailed review of proposed protocols and is working with UMaine Athletics and other stakeholders to find a safe path to competition for winter sports.”

UMaine men’s hockey coach Red Gendron is hopeful.

“That’s going to be the president’s decision,” said Gendron. “That’s on her plate. She understands how desperately our student-athletes want to play.

“I can tell you this, I don’t want to have that burden. She understands it from both sides and ultimately it’s her call if we have a season at Maine hockey. She may very well say we can start the season, but depending on how things occur in real time relative to pandemic, whether regionally or locally in the state of Maine, other decisions may have to be made down the line.”

Gendron said all he and his players can do is continue to prepare as if they will play this season. The Black Bears have been practicing since early September and have been undergoing surveillance testing for COVID-19, as required by the NCAA. So far, no hockey players have tested positive.

“For us our job is to prepare to play hockey,” said Gendron. “If we’re granted that opportunity, our job is to continue to do well in the classroom, and from a coach’s perspective, to support those efforts of our kids. And if we get the go-ahead, we’re as ready as we possibly can be to compete.”

If they can play, the men’s team will play a 27-game schedule, with 20 Hockey East games, concluding the season at home against Boston College on March 5-6. The women’s team is slated to play a 26-game schedule, with 18 Hockey East games, ending at home on Feb. 26-27 against Northeastern.

“We’re just looking forward to hopefully having the opportunity to compete,” said Gendron. “The key thing to mention is the fact that our players have worked so diligently. One of the things I told them at practice today is that, one of the first things we have learned, out of necessity, is we have to constantly learn to adapt. What is true today might not be true tomorrow.”

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