WCHA Men’s League Commissioner Bill Robertson knew the challenges would be substantial in trying to play a hockey season while the coronavirus pandemic raged on.
“We know we will need to navigate an ever-changing path,’’ Robert said Nov. 10 during the league’s preseason video conference. “… I don’t think any of us expects our schedule to come off without a hitch.’’
That’s exactly what has been playing out over the past eight days.
Defending WCHA champion Minnesota State Mankato on Tuesday announced that is pausing all team-related activities and is postponing its home conference series against Bemidji State scheduled for Friday and Saturday because positive COVID-19 tests results. This came a day after the Mavericks postponed their second game of their nonconference series in Bemidji because of a positive test within their program. The teams were able to play their season opener, a 5-0 Minnesota State win on Sunday, because there were no positive tests before the game. No makeup dates for the three Mavericks-Beavers games have been announced.
Following contact tracing, MSU Mankato officials on Tuesday determined that players and members of the coaching staff and support staff would need to be quarantined or isolated.
“It’s an unfortunate turn of events, as I know how excited our coaches and players were to get back on the ice. The team looked very impressive in that season-opening game against Bemidji State,” Minnesota State athletic director Kevin Buisman said in a statement. “It’s important, however, that we maintain safety as our top priority.’’
The Mavericks aren’t the only WCHA team that has had to postpone or cancel games because of COVID-19. Before the season started, Alaska Anchorage opted out, leaving the conference with nine teams for the 2020-21 season. On Monday, Northern Michigan announced that it is canceling five nonconference games, including a Dec. 4-5 series against Bemidji State, and postponing one WCHA contest. So far, WCHA teams have played a combined seven games over two weeks, while four games have been postponed and five have been canceled.
The only games remaining on the schedule for the upcoming weekend is a home-and-home series between Ferris State and Lake Superior State on Friday and Sunday.