BEMIDJI -- Only two weeks into the season, it seems more college hockey games have been postponed or canceled than have actually been played.
The Bemidji State men managed to play their season opener last Sunday, Nov. 22, but, thanks to the coronavirus, the team has since had three nonconference games postponed and two others canceled.
The schedule is pretty bare across the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
No WCHA teams would be in action this weekend if not for a series Lake Superior State quickly scheduled against Division III Adrian following the cancellation of the Lakers’ series against Ferris State. Positive COVID-19 test results within the Minnesota State, Northern Michigan and FSU programs caused three series to be canceled or postponed.
Before the season began, the Beaver men’s team experienced its own COVID-19 issues and was unable to practice for 10 days, newly hired assistant coach Mike Gibbons said on The Rink Live podcast earlier this week. That was likely the reason why the team’s season-opening series with Minnesota State was pushed back two days to Nov. 22-23.
“This is a season like no other. You’re rescheduling games, you’re canceling a game, you’re playing a game on a Sunday and a Monday,” Gibbons said when discussing the challenges teams face amid the pandemic. “We had an issue and didn’t practice for 10 days. Half your team comes back, the other half doesn’t come back. You’re trying to find games in the middle of the season.”
As of Friday afternoon, BSU has only two games remaining on its schedule before the holiday break: a Dec. 12-13 nonconference home series against Michigan Tech. The next series on the docket after that is the team’s WCHA opener Jan. 7-8 at Bowling Green.
That could mean only three games played for the Beavers over 46 days. For a team that already experienced an eight-month layoff due to the pandemic, that’s not what you want to hear.
Bemidji State’s three games against MSU that were postponed this past week could be made up. Both teams have an open weekend Dec. 18-19, so there’s the potential that at least two or even all three games could be rescheduled around that time. While that has always been a scheduled off weekend for BSU, MSU had originally been slated to travel to Alaska Anchorage Dec. 18-19 before UAA canceled its season.
The Dec. 4-5 nonconference series at Northern Michigan, however, has been canceled and will not be rescheduled.
The following is an overview of the Beavers’ schedule changes to this point.
Nov. 20-21 series vs. Minnesota State is pushed back two days
Nov. 23 game vs. MSU is postponed
Nov. 27-28 series at MSU is postponed
Dec. 4-5 series at Northern Michigan is canceled
Dec. 11-12 series vs. Michigan Tech is pushed back one day so the Sanford Center can be properly sanitized and eliminate team crossover in player spaces following a Dec. 10-11 women’s hockey series
Jan. 1-2 series vs. Alaska Anchorage is canceled
The BSU women’s hockey team also had its season-opening series altered by the pandemic. Positive COVID-19 cases within the St. Cloud State program caused the teams’ scheduled Nov. 20-21 series to be postponed.
The Beaver women’s team is now set to open the season Dec. 4-5 at home against Minnesota State. The team’s Dec. 11-12 home series against SCSU has also been moved up one day.
Earlier this fall, the Bemidji State women experienced COVID-19 issues that hampered the team’s preseason preparations when team members were required to quarantine, head coach Jim Scanlan said during WCHA media day earlier this month.
The BSU programs haven’t been the only ones in college hockey to experience such predicaments. As of Friday afternoon, 60 men’s college hockey games have been postponed or canceled this season.
Realizing how frequently games would be canceled or postponed, the NCAA has lowered the minimum number of games teams must play to be eligible for the NCAA tournament to 13 this season. With one game in the books, the Bemidji State men currently have 18 remaining on the schedule. The team was originally set to play 26 games when the schedule was announced last month.
Each WCHA team has a bye week scheduled for the weekend of March 5-6 before the start of the league playoffs one week later. As the pandemic continues, it’s looking increasingly likely that teams will need to use that weekend to reschedule games.