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Over the last year, the No. 7 Michigan hockey team has dealt with repeated spells of uncertainty.

Three months ago, the Wolverines didn’t know when — or even if — their season would begin. After the first ten games, with the second half of the schedule unreleased at the time, they didn’t know when games would resume. 

Of course, that uncertainty isn’t limited to just hockey. In 2020 and the 2020-adjacent years, it comes with the territory. And now, with the highly contagious B.1.1.7 strain of COVID-19 spreading across multiple athletic programs — and as the athletic department continues its 14-day shutdown to contain the spread — Michigan has once again entered a pause with no guarantee as to when it will emerge. 

“You have two questions right away,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said Monday. “What’s going on? How serious is it? I still don’t know all the information … but here we are, and we’re looking to spin this into a positive.”

Doing so won’t be too easy. At a minimum, the Wolverines will miss their upcoming series starting Feb. 3 against Penn State. Unless they’re willing to play on just two days of practice, they’ll also miss a Feb. 9 matchup against Michigan State. 

For Michigan, the shutdown comes at the worst possible time. Since the holiday break, the Wolverines have played some of their best hockey all season. Consecutive sweeps against Ohio State and Notre Dame — the latter of which swept Michigan in late November — propelled the Wolverines to second place in the Big Ten. They’d be undefeated in the new year if not for a late-game collapse against Michigan State. 

The prevailing narrative, like with Pearson’s previous teams, was that Michigan had put its early-season struggles behind it and was poised for a strong second half. 

But now, while the rest of the Big Ten plays on, its hottest team can’t even practice. At least, not in a traditional sense. 

“I asked the question, can student-athletes go out and find an outdoor pond and skate on it?” Pearson said. “And the answer I got was yes, just like you could go for a run outside, so long as it’s outdoors.”

Even though informal reps on the pond could help players stay in decent physical shape during the two weeks off of practice, it’ll be impossible for the Wolverines to replicate the rigor and general structure of a typical practice. That they feel the need to resort to those pond reps in the first place is indicative of how inopportune the timing is on this shutdown.

The Wolverines have proven that they’re capable of finishing near the top of the Big Ten this season. To meet that goal, they’ll have to find a way to maintain the momentum they built prior to the shutdown. 

“We’re all dealing with adversity in our lives, and it’s how you handle that adversity,” Pearson said. “We’ve got to come out stronger on the other side, whenever we’re allowed to come back.

If we are.”

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