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Will we have a UMaine hockey season?


No college football in the state of Maine this fall.

That's a sentence this journalist never thought he'd lead a column with.

However, we're living in an uncertain time as the U.S. tries to control the COVID-19 pandemic. If we want to see Randy Moss's son Montigo suit up for the UMaine football team, it could be this spring.

With UMaine and many other Pine Tree State institutions pulling the plug on fall sports last week, that begs the question from Kittery to Fort Kent: What will the UMaine hockey season look like?

Will the puck drop in October?

Even though hockey is classified as a winter sport in the eyes of the NCAA, the season typically starts early in the fall.

But due to COVID-19, will we see any hockey during the first semester?

If I had to guess, I'd speculate the Black Bears will be playing mostly a Hockey East schedule, which is doable.

Two of college hockey's biggest tournaments have been cancelled. The IceBreaker, which UMaine hosted in 2015 and was slated to be hosted by Minnesota-Duluth, along with the Friendship Four in Northern Ireland, which was to feature Army, Sacred Heart, Quinnipiac and Mercyhurst. Neither will happen.

Let's also remember that the Ivy League has nixed all fall competition, and many of those schools - Harvard, Brown, Dartmouth, Yale, Princeton - are part of the ECAC, a league in which UMaine traditionally taps into for non-conference scheduling.

The Black Bears are also supposed to travel to Omaha of the NCHC this season.

At this point, I think many UMaine fans will argue a shortened season is better than no season at all.

If it's an all-Hockey East schedule with non-conference games restricted to the Northeast (Quinnipiac is due to come to Orono this year after the Bears traveled to Hamden, Connecticut, last year), than so be it.

Fortunately, we're seeing a steady decrease in COVID cases in Maine, and if that trend continues by the time January rolls around, fans could definitely be allowed inside the Alfond.

It's hard to imagine playing games in front of an empty Alfond Arena. But even at half-capacity, the Old Girl can be awfully darned loud.

Hockey wise, the Bears are coming off their best season of the Red Gendron era, and you could argue that UMaine could've been a dangerous team in the NCAA Tournament thanks to having the best goaltender in the country in Jeremy Swayman.

The Black Bears will feature eight incoming freshmen, including goaltender Victor Ostman, and even if there is a shortened season, these guys need some time to get acclimated to the grind of NCAA hockey. Especially goaltenders Ostman and sophomore Matthew Theissen, who barely saw the ice last season behind Swayman.

I have my doubts the puck will drop in October. But dropping it in December or January is better than not dropping it at all. There isn't much to do on Friday's or Saturday's in Orono between November and February, so hopefully we'll see some college hockey this winter.

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