A day off between regional games gave the Michigan hockey team a chance to reset. Julia Schachinger/Daily. Buy this photo.

A day off never hurts. 

After the Michigan hockey team’s 5-3 win over American International on Friday, it was given just that on Saturday before facing Quinnipiac in the regional final. Elimination hockey poses more physical threats than usual and having Saturday off gave the Wolverines a chance to refuel.

“These games are tough nowadays and you get pretty banged up,” senior forward Nolan Moyle said after Michigan’s Saturday practice. “It’s good to have a day off to get your mind and body right.”

The Wolverines played the whole Big Ten season without breaks in between weekend series games. They also pushed through back-to-back games against Minnesota Duluth and Minnesota State in the Ice Breaker Tournament back in October, winning in the final. 

Given a rare day off in between games, the players looked to take advantage, but not everyone was entirely pleased with the setup. 

“We play back-to-back all year,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said. “I know how important these games are and you want to get it right. You want to be as fair and equitable to all the participants as possible. We’ll see how it goes. If we win I like it.” 

Part of the scheduling is due to the recovery advantage for teams playing in the earlier game compared to teams playing later. There’s also the possibility of overtime and teams having to play more minutes than expected. The day off alleviates these concerns.

The rest proved valuable in Michigan’s 7-4 win over the Bobcats. The Wolverines came out hot, as Moyle scored 33 seconds into the game. In the first period alone, Michigan shot the puck 14 times. Senior forward Jimmy Lambert added another in the 14th minute, giving the Wolverines the 2-0 lead heading into the intermission. 

But as much as the day off allows players to recover physically, it also allows players to recover mentally and take time away from tournament pressures. Pearson has a plethora of Frozen Four appearances — 11 as a Wolverines’ assistant and one as head coach in 2018. If anyone knows how to handle the day off, it’s him. 

“Today we got to relax, sleep in and have a light skate,” Pearson said. “We’ve got a team activity coming up later this afternoon to try to keep it loose today and not dwell on it too much. Then we’ll ramp it up starting tomorrow morning with some video.” 

The team activity was a mystery at the time. But once Saturday afternoon rolled around, it was clear what the team had chosen — Dave and Busters. 

“It’s definitely fun to kind of let loose and not many of us had gone to Dave and Busters before,” senior forward Nick Blankenburg said. “It was nice to hang out with the guys and get out of the hotel. Our hotel was attached to the rink so it was nice to get away for a few hours.” 

The team activity may have been a success in the players’ viewpoint, but with Friday’s possibile elimination, the actual activity wasn’t planned until after Friday night’s game. Once everyone woke up Saturday morning, the Michigan staff got to work. 

“We called every bowling alley in Allentown,” Pearson said. “I guess bowling is pretty popular on Saturday, so bowling was out. We talked about Cabela’s but it was 30 miles away.” 

The staff eventually came up with Dave and Busters, and approached the team leaders to decide.

“They didn’t want to ride in a bus too long,” Pearson said. “Most of them had been to Dave and Busters as kids. They thought they could go there and have some fun for a while.”

That successful rest day gave the Wolverines the energy to beat Quinnipiac and make the Frozen Four. As enjoyable as it may have been for Michigan to get out of the hotel and take its minds off the upcoming fixture, there was still some light-hearted regret they didn’t end up somewhere else. 

“I would have preferred to go Cabelas versus Dave and Busters, if anybody wants to know,” Pearson joked.