AUBURN — The United States Premier Hockey League has released its 2020-21 National Collegiate Development Conference schedule, and the Twin City Thunder will open the season at home Friday, Sept. 25, against the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs.

The two teams finished in a tie for eighth place for the final NCDC playoff spot last year. Monarchs earned the postseason nod thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker. The teams will face six times during the upcoming season.

In the remaining games on the 48-game schedule the Thunder face the other New Hampshire and Massachusetts teams — the Boston Advantage, the Boston Junior Bruins, Islanders Hockey Club, Northern Cyclones and South Shore Kings — six times each. The Thunder face the Southern-based teams in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania — the Connecticut Junior Rangers, Jersey Hitmen, P.A.L. Islanders, Philadelphia Hockey Club, Rockets Hockey Club and the Utica Jr. Comets — twice apiece.

This year the NCDC is into two divisions.

“The league is a really good travel-based league, it’s really travel-friendly and business-friendly on that end,” Thunder co-owner and coach Dan Hodge said. “I think it was one of the things they looked at and said, ‘OK, we have six teams in the North and six teams based in the South, and it just makes sense.’”

The team has no Sunday home games this season. Hodge said it’s just how the schedule worked out. Most of the home games are slated for Friday and Saturday at either 6 or 7 p.m., though Hodge said game times haven’t been finalized. There are a few weekday home games this year as well.

 

With state regulations currently only allowing 50 people in indoor facilities due to the coronavirus pandemic, the organization understands fans may not be allowed early in the season.

“That will probably be the standard to start, and we will see what happens as things progress,” Hodge said. “We are preparing for that. It’s going to be different year.”

The Thunder will play 18 home and road games. The remaining 12 games will be played at neutral sites as part of showcases. The longest home stand is four games, from Oct. 10-23 when the Advantage come to town Oct. 10, South Shore on the 16th and 17th and the Islanders Hockey Club on the 23rd.

Hodge said the showcases, which are scheduled Oct. 2-4, Oct. 25, Oct. 30-Nov. 1, Nov. 17-19, Jan. 8-10, are likely to be played in New Hampshire.

The final home game is Saturday, March 6, against the Advantage. The first Saturday in March is typically the state high school hockey championships at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.

The Thunder cap the regular season on the road against the Kings and the Advantage on March 12-13.

The playoffs will begin on March 19, then the four quarterfinal winners will face each other in a four-team tournament starting March 26 at a site yet to be determined.

COVID PROTOCOLS

The USPHL also announced its COVID-19 policies for the upcoming season.

According to a news release, all USPHL members must follow all federal, state and local guidelines issued pertaining to COVID-19, including, guidelines regarding travel, facility management and any hockey/sport-related policies.

As for testing, all players must provide written documentation of a negative COVID-19 test that was taken no more than three days prior to their arrival (for first practice, team meeting or other event in which the player begins his participation with the organization).

All players and team personnel will be required to take a COVID-19 rapid test within 24 hours of departing on any overnight trip for which the team will be traveling on a team bus.

If any player or team personnel becomes infected with COVID-19, all other players and personnel must be tested for COVID-19 before returning to play.

“There are definitely protocols in place, but you cross your fingers you don’t have to deal with it,” Hodge said Saturday. “The testing is the biggest thing, and seeing everybody is healthy, and go from there.”

The news release also said that all USPHL organizations are required to have an action plan to facilitate the transportation and safekeeping of players who become infected with COVID-19. Each USPHL organization’s plan must include a safe house at which the infected player may reside and be cared for until recovery and the requisite quarantine period has been achieved; and a designated driver or process for safe transportation of an infected player back to their home, billet family or safe house.

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