As COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the country, the perhaps inevitability that the Michigan State ice hockey team would be affected rose too.
The Spartan football team was affected a few weeks ago by positive tests from Maryland and almost was again this past weekend from positive tests by Ohio State. This time it will be the hockey team’s turn to sit out two games after it was announced Monday the Dec. 8-9 series versus Wisconsin would be postponed.
Scheduled to take place at Munn Ice Arena, the decision was made conjointly with medical officials from both Wisconsin and Michigan State following a positive COVID-19 test within the Badgers’ program.
"The situation we're all in right now just everybody wanted to be cautious and do the right thing and with Wisconsin having a positive test and being short numbers and just a situational awareness the team doctors got together and made the decision that this was the best course of action,” Michigan State hockey head coach Danton Cole said to reporters on Monday after the announcement.
The series will now have to be rescheduled, likely to sometime after the New Year. The Big Ten has yet to release the second half of the schedule starting in January. Cole said he still does not know when it will be released.
“We were hoping maybe this week but the sooner the better, but I know everybody's under a lot of stress with a lot of things going on,” Cole said.
As of Monday afternoon, Cole had not spoken with the players but said he imagined that they felt disappointed.
“Hockey players, they want to play games. Coaches like practicing, players like playing so I guess we win this week we get more practices,” Cole said.
Wisconsin’s women's hockey team, which also plays in the LaBahn Arena, has been dealing with their share of COVID-19 cases too. The team has only played two games this year and announced Monday that their remainder of games for December will be canceled citing the team will not have the minimum number of student-athletes available to play.
The postponement of this series, among others, continues to serve as a reminder of how players and coaches need to be cautious more than ever before. All it takes is for one member of a team to potentially postpone a game. A sense of self-responsibility is paramount, which is not always the easiest thing to ask of college students.
“If you had six or seven guys in an apartment that you are not around all the time or aren’t getting tested every day and you're watching Sunday Night Football, well that's taking a risk for yourself and for the rest of the team and not just games but your health and other people's health,” Cole said.
The Spartans now have a near two-week break without any games until they face Notre Dame Dec. 19-20. The sudden change in scheduling has caused the coaching staff to make some changes to the practice schedule. Cole said the team would be taking Monday off along with a few other days.
The student-athletes also have finals week next week, but not having any games that could help them focus on their schoolwork, especially being online.
“Finals week always presents its own challenges. But we're able to move practice times around a lot and with all the exams online, it makes it a little bit easier,” Cole said.
MSU now has plenty of time to prepare for the Fighting Irish. The timing came at a good time as the Spartans were set to carry a three-game losing streak into the Wisconsin series while also completing a stretch of playing six games in 12 days. This could be a good time for the team to take a step back and return to the way they were playing to start the year.
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