Hockey East announced Wednesday that it intends to play a league season with all member schools participating, though it acknowledged the need for real-time scheduling changes in light of pandemic developments. The news was first reported by Jimmy Connelly.
The priority will be completing the league season, although teams can play other games if they can schedule them. The conference also intends to hold its annual tournament as usual, with eight teams playing across two weekends. Per Connelly, play is likely to begin in mid-to-late November or later, and will include as many as 30 league games.
For Northeastern, the biggest non-conference question is whether the 69th Annual Beanpot Tournament — typically the highlight of the season and by far the biggest draw among the student body — will be played in February, as it has been every year since 1955. If the Hockey East season is in full swing by then, the tournament stands an excellent chance of being played. But apart from shifts in the state of the pandemic, the wild card could be Harvard, which — unlike Northeastern, Boston University, and Boston College — does not play in Hockey East and has already suspended all sports until January 1.
On July 17, Northeastern announced the suspension of fall sports, encompassing soccer volleyball, field hockey, and cross country, with the hope that those sports could commence in the spring. Teams can practice in the meantime in accordance with Northeastern, NCAA, and public guidelines.
The conference said that schedule details, including competition specifics and a start date, will be released later. It acknowledged the need to develop multiple balanced schedule models for both men and women to accommodate interruptions. Exactly whether or when those interruptions might occur is anyone’s guess, though it’s worth noting that Massachusetts, where seven of the 11 Hockey East schools are located, has seen the rate of new cases rise and fall in recent weeks, though it has generally trended lower.
The league cited its geography as an asset in creating flexible competition schedules while mitigating non-essential travel. Per Connelly, this entails limiting travel to day trips to prevent overnight hotel stays. Only teams travelling to Orono, Maine and Burlington, Vermont — as well as the Maine and Vermont teams anytime they travel — will stay overnight.
The conference did not specify whether fans will be permitted to attend games, though the experiences of professional sports league around the globe indicate that the games will likely to closed to spectators. Hockey East’s professed commitment to athlete safety — whether through workout and resocialization protocols or an NCAA-guideline-compliant return to play — also makes fan presence unlikely.
Northeastern’s men’s and women’s hockey squads both have success to build on from last season. The men went 18–13–3 (11–12–1 HEA), and though they faltered somewhat down the stretch, they provided the year’s most electric moment when Jordan Harris sniped home a double-overtime goal to seal the Huskies’ third-straight Beanpot championship.
The women (32–4–2, 24–3–0 HEAW) also won a Beanpot title on a double-overtime goal, but it ultimately amounted to just one special moment in a campaign chock full of outright dominance. Behind the offensive powerhouse of Alina Mueller and Chloe Aurard — plus the scintillating goalkeeping of Aerin Frankel — the Huskies seldom stumbled, frequently handing out lopsided clobberings and going more than a month between losses. They will return all but three players from a team that breezed to its third-straight Hockey East Championship, spent much of the season ranked third in the nation and, poised for a serious run at a national championship before the season shut down.