by Joshua Messe/CHN Reporter
ANN ARBOR, Mich. Last weekend, Michigan was swept by Minnesota in Yost Ice Arena.
But, these games were not the clash of top five teams that was promised even a week before. Instead a nearly full-strength Gophers team handled a reeling Michigan squad, in affairs that didn’t reveal much about either’s true strength.
The Wolverines had six regular skaters out, including defenseman Steve Holtz, who was revealed to be hospitalized and on a ventilator via a Facebook post from his family. Dressing as a left wing was reserve goalkeeper Tyler Shea, who had never made an appearance at the position in his college career. And while Shea didn’t play, being activated and dressed indicated the dire circumstances surrounding the roster this weekend.
These absences were the result of illness stemming from the respiratory diseases that have spread throughout Ann Arbor’s campus recently.
In fact, the University’s medical school has sent out two notices to Michigan students, urging the entirety of the campus to be cautious and get their influenza vaccines.
Assistant coach Bill Muckalt said a lot of work went into ensuring the team was healthy and able to play in the week before the Minnesota series.
“Obviously a lot was going on,” Muckalt said. “Can’t discuss medical issues, but just concern for player safety and wellness being first and foremost.”
The Wolverines coaching staff worked with the University’s medical staff, which deemed the team able to play. That was the chief hurdle. There was no oversight from the Big Ten, and although the Center for Disease Control was mentioned as being involved, it’s unclear what role it played.
But when asked directly whether the team should have played, Muckalt was unsure.
“I think without getting into detail, we were right on that threshold,” Muckalt said. “And we found a way to get through it. We’re not the only team that’s dealt with sickness or illness or injuries. But you know, just proud of our guys.”
The episode conjured up memories of last year’s Great Lakes Invitational, when Michigan backed out of one of the two games, citing vague “health and safety concerns.” It was later revealed that former head coach Mel Pearson urged that the team not play those games as far back as the previous summer, since many players would be out at World Juniors, calling into…