The University of Maine Black Bears (2-9-1) are taking the long bus ride down from Orono to Storrs to play two games against the Huskies on Friday, Feb. 26 and Saturday, Feb. 27. Rather than playing one game at home and then traveling to Orono, as has been the usual format for this season, Maine is staying in Storrs for both. The University of Maine has not been able to host games in the historic Alfond Arena this season due to state and university COVID-19 protocols.
This is the first meeting between the two teams this season, Maine being one of two Hockey East teams UConn have not played, along with Vermont. The teams were set to face each other in the Hockey East quarterfinals last season, scheduled for just a few days after the postseason was canceled in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. UConn (8-9-2) is 4-1-1 in their last six matchups against the Black Bears. The Huskies are currently No. 4 in Hockey East with the Hockey East Power Index giving them 52.13 while Maine sits at No. 9 with a rating of 43.93. The Huskies need to win this series if they hope to hold onto their fourth place spot in Hockey East, as Providence College is sitting very close behind at 51.02 on the HEPI.
UConn will be without junior forward Kale Howarth for the Friday game against Maine due to serving a one-game suspension handed down by Hockey East after the major penalty he received during the game against Boston University. He will be able to return to the team on Saturday, where I expect we will see him.
This matchup does not look to be all too difficult for the Huskies, as the Black Bears have had a tough season from the beginning. Over the last two seasons, the team was built around star goaltender, Hobey finalist, and Richter Award winner Jeremy Swayman. Swayman made up for all the gaps in the Maine defense through sheer talent and force of will. With Sway foregoing his senior year in favor of signing a professional contract with the Boston Bruins, Maine has struggled to fill the gap in the crease.