For one of the only times this season, Shawn Hunwick woke up Monday morning to an empty athletic schedule.

So what did the fifth-year senior goalie do with his free afternoon?

“I went to class,” Hunwick said.

What a concept.

As Michigan coach Red Berenson explains, when you play a sport at Michigan, “you’re not a normal student.”

So players like Hunwick, who has a class required for his degree that also cuts into hockey practice, have to make special arrangements. Hunwick always leaves halfway through the three-hour class, goes to practice, then makes up the work later in the day.

For once, Hunwick could stay for the entire class.

The rare mid-season bye week comes at a fortuitous time for the Michigan hockey team. An especially physical series against Notre Dame left the Wolverines in need of rest.

“I think we’re all pretty sore after that series,” said junior forward Chris Brown. “At least I am, I’m pretty sore. We all took a beating, and we also gave a beating out there.”

Berenson said the mental healing during a bye week is just as important as mending sore muscles.

“As a player, I liked the physical rest to a certain extent, but it was the mental rest that really … takes some of the mental pressure off,” Berenson said. “If I’m a student, it gives me a chance to get my head clear.”

“To me, taking two days is not twice as (effective) as one day off — it’s three times as much. You ask a player how he feels after two days, (he’d say,) ‘Oh geez, it’s like I’ve been off for a week.’ ”

Even practice on Tuesday had a different feel. Skaters divided into teams and played a 3-on-3 competition. Berenson holds the contest every year the team has a bye week. In the past, he even awarded a trophy.

On Tuesday, the blue team, which included Hunwick and Brown, were the victors. The trophy, though, is no longer.

Berenson plans different types of games throughout the bye week targeting certain aspects of the team’s play that need improvement. He hinted toward a possible skills competition to take place on Thursday.

Berenson, who played in college and then in the NHL from 1960-78, can appreciate what a little rest can do for a hockey player.

“There’s never a day when you’re a player that something doesn’t hurt,” Berenson said. “The only time I woke up and nothing hurt was when I started coaching. And I thought, ‘There’s something wrong.’ ”

BREAKAWAY BREAKDOWNS: Brown and freshman forward Alex Guptill, two of Michigan’s top scoring threats, were undefended in Notre Dame’s zone on Saturday. No one but the goalie was near.

Brown passed it to Guptill. Guptill passed it back. Then they exchanged again.

A few feet from the crease, one final pass. It was too far. Brown’s pass slid inches past Guptill’s stick.

On a two-on-none breakaway, the duo didn’t muster a shot.

The Wolverines haven’t converted on a breakaway in recent memory. Berenson said the team would focus on odd-man rushes and the quality of puck touches during the bye week.

After the game on Saturday, Berenson said he was relieved the missed opportunity didn’t decide the game, which the Wolverines ultimately won, 2-1.

“They were both playing very unselfish,” Berenson said. “But it’s okay. Somebody score.”

CONFERENCE CLUSTER: On the door to Michigan’s locker room is posted a printout of the CCHA standings. Right now, the Wolverines sit in fourth, just four points out of first place. After the weekend off, though, they could drop all the way to eighth.

Exactly zero players on Michigan’s roster are listed as math majors. Normally, that’s a non-issue.

With this year’s CCHA standings as crowded as they are, though, the Wolverines would benefit from a math whiz to crunch the numbers each weekend.

“We definitely are (looking at the standings),” said junior defenseman Lee Moffie. “We’re looking (at) Pairwise (for) the (NCAA tournament) streak. Twenty-one years is very important to us.

“We’re kind of looking at every weekend like the GLI.”

Hunwick said the team will keep tabs on the movement in the conference standings this week. Last year, Michigan had to win its final six games and hope for some Notre Dame losses to clinch first place in the CCHA. The conference race wasn’t decided until the final day of the regular season.

This season looks like it might be decided on the final day once again.

This time around, though, the Wolverines will have to worry about more than just one other team.

“We used to be able to look at your schedule and say, ‘Here’s a sweep, here’s a sweep,’ ” Hunwick said. “Maybe we’ve come down or everybody’s caught up.”

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