Ryan Little/Daily. Buy this photo.

While the Michigan athletic department’s shutdown is set to end on Sunday, it may be at least another week until the Michigan hockey team takes the ice again.

On Monday, Michigan coach Mel Pearson confirmed what he suggested shortly after the shutdown was announced — that it would be difficult for the Wolverines to play their scheduled game on Feb. 9 against Michigan State, just one day after they expect to return to practice.

“If we’re allowed to start skating Monday and then we’d have to play that Tuesday or Wednesday, we will not be ready,” Pearson said. “And I don’t think our trainer Brian Brewster and our strength and conditioning coach Joe Maher would … put our guys in a situation like that.”

While Pearson emphasized that nothing had been officially announced, the fact that the team will not have skated for two weeks puts them in a difficult position. Players have been jogging and working out at their houses to stay in as close to game shape as possible, but it’s not a perfect substitute to skating nearly every day.

“I think we’re all just trying to come up with a plan if we’re allowed to go next Monday — how hard we push them, how much we skate,” Pearson said. “Part of the problem is we have no idea what type of shape they’re gonna come back (in). They can tell us what they’re doing and we can hear what they’re doing, but it’s still not like being on the ice and the bump and grind.”

Assuming the Feb. 9 game is postponed, Michigan’s next series would come on Feb. 13 and 14 against Wisconsin, but Pearson mentioned that even the presumption that those games will be played is optimistic. It’s possible that the Wolverines still won’t be game-ready with just a week of practice following two weeks off. If Michigan hopes to play its full schedule, though, it would be difficult to postpone the series and find dates to reschedule five games.

Prior to the season, the Wolverines emphasized how difficult it is to build up the stamina needed to play a full 60 minutes without actually playing in games, even with the ability to skate every day. Now, if they return to play against the Badgers, they will potentially have to build their stamina back up in just five days.

“There’s no such thing as game shape unless you’re playing games,” sophomore forward Eric Ciccolini said on Sept. 23. “So everybody’s gonna be a little bit slower. Everybody’s gonna be a little bit out of shape.”

The difference between now and when Ciccolini spoke is that while the Wolverines haven’t been playing games, their opponents have. Wisconsin just swept Michigan State, winning the two games by a combined score of 10-1. Michigan, on the other hand, is behind the eight ball, the pause interrupting all momentum from a four-game winning streak.

Not only will the skaters suffer from not being on the ice for two weeks, but the goaltenders may struggle at first, too. Junior Strauss Mann and freshman Erik Portillo had been thriving during the Wolverines’ winning streak, allowing a combined four goals in two starts each. But neither has faced an actual shot since Michigan’s last game.

“That to me is the biggest concern, is our goaltenders (and) how much work they can put in,” Pearson said. “I haven’t seen them out in their driveway with their goalie equipment on and anybody shooting tennis balls on them, so I don’t know if they’re actually stopping anything.”

Even though the Wolverines are facing a less-than-ideal situation, it’s just a minor consequence of playing a season with the COVID-19 pandemic still prevalent. This is what Michigan, and every other team currently playing, signed up for. Most programs, if not all, will have their season interrupted at some point. And even if the Wolverines do make it out unscathed, the pandemic’s threat will loom over the entirety of the season.

“This team has a chance, and we’re not going to let COVID even sideline our opportunities to have a good second half,” Pearson said. “Maybe we’re not going to be as sharp, but we’ll be ready to go on the other side of this and take advantage of this time we’ve been given.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown challenges at all of us — including The Michigan Daily — but that hasn’t stopped our staff. We’re committed to reporting on the issues that matter most to the community where we live, learn and work. Your donations keep our journalism free and independent. You can support our work here.

For a weekly roundup of the best stories from The Michigan Daily, sign up for our newsletter here.