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The month of November has been notably difficult for the No. 5 Michigan hockey team. From a rough start to conference play to players being hospitalized with illness, punch after punch has landed on the Wolverines, and they seemed to struggle to find their usual, energetic selves for a full 60 minutes.

But against Harvard on Saturday, that energy shifted. Michigan played with the quick, free-flowing offense that defines its game. And a lot of the credit for that shift goes to a different team’s success — specifically, the Michigan football team’s dominant win over Ohio State.

“A lot of us like, we don’t really like to play like if you’re too tense, you’re not having fun, you’re not loose out there,” freshman forward Rutger McGroarty said. “Like Johnny Druskinis is my roommate and Luca Fantilli came in (to our room to watch the game). We weren’t really talking but we were just watching the game and having fun with it.”

Playing loose showed in the Wolverines’ win. Its skaters tried random plays all over the ice, whether it was senior forward Nick Granowicz making a backhanded wraparound pass that led to a goal or freshman forward Adam Fantilli coming within inches of a “Michigan” goal attempt.

With the energy of the rivalry win behind them — and the support of the football team as it visited Yost Ice Arena for a moment of celebration — the Wolverines used that energy to fuel a statement non-conference win.

But despite those off-ice distractions, Michigan didn’t have much time to celebrate. It had to face the Crimson, the nation’s only remaining undefeated team. It needed to focus on its strengths all over the ice to pull out the win.

And while that distraction might seem like a hindrance to the Wolverines’ reaching that goal, it created an atmosphere that helped in the long run. Midway through the second period, the football team arrived to a raucous crowd. As puzzled skaters from both teams wondered what was happening as fans rose in a thunderous cheer, Michigan captured every ounce of momentum in the game.

The effect of that arrival didn’t stay off the ice, though. Much to the chagrin of the officials, Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh led his team out onto the ice during the second period media timeout — nearly drawing a delay of game penalty for the hockey-playing Wolverines. 

“Nothing came of it like right after but (that) definitely motivates it,” Michigan hockey coach Brandon Naurato said. “Obviously all the boys watched the game today and were rooting for the football guys. So I thought that was really cool for them to come out.”

Homecomings aside, the game wasn’t nearly over though — there was still half a game to play once the officials got the football team off the ice. That didn’t stop some exchanges of advice, as Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy walked up to junior goaltender Erik Portillo — game ball in tow — to share some encouragement.

Portillo, however, was too locked in on his own game to remember what exactly McCarthy said.

“It’s stuff that happens around the game all the time, I think you’ve just got to focus in after that,” Portillo said. “I mean, (you) can’t really focus on that too much, but obviously it’s a cool thing that happens and I think it really shows the Michigan school spirit.”

After a difficult month for the Wolverines, the tone shift of a bubbling crowd brought on by a football team homecoming made a noticeable impact. For the first time in weeks, Michigan got back to the creative, free and connected brand of hockey that it wants to play.

As they try to carry that energy into the remainder of the season, the impact of that distraction could last for longer than one moment.