Hockey players play through injuries all the time. Mid-game stitches, broken jaws, even broken feet. That doesn’t mean it’s not difficult to do.

That was the case last season for now-sophomore forward Eric Ciccolini. Ciccolini played 26 games with a significant shoulder injury. After an early February series against Wisconsin in which he registered three assists, it became too much and he opted for surgery.

“I think I was just a little bit hesitant doing some things because, like I try to not think of it at all, but it was just there in the back of my head,” Ciccolini said. “And I’m just playing through it and not knowing, it would feel completely fine and then it just starts hurting out of the blue.”

By no means did Ciccolini have a bad season — he tallied 11 points, including seven in his final 11 games. But he only scored one goal, the injury likely playing a factor.

It wasn’t the easiest offseason to come back from an injury. Ciccolini was cleared to begin rehabbing in March, but had to leave Ann Arbor and return home to Toronto due to the COVID-19 pandemic before he could even start. For the most part, he had to take his rehab into his own hands.

“I kind of just rehabbed on my own and saw a doctor once or twice a month, back at home, but basically like almost rehab by myself,” Ciccolini said. “My trainer (Michigan’s Brian Brewster) helped me with exercises and stuff like that and I’d do like Zoom chats every week with him to just make sure my mobility was good.”

While Ciccolini could get most of his rehab done on his own, there were some aspects he couldn’t quite replicate away from Ann Arbor without trainers.

“If I was here, I’d get worked on every day, and then at home I didn’t get basically any work done and just had to do it on my own and try to make sure that it was getting better every day,” Ciccolini said. “I did good enough so where it’s pretty healed and like basically 100 percent now, so I did a pretty good job of that. It was a challenge.”

The pandemic hurt Ciccolini’s progress more than it helped. There’s no arguing that. But because he was able to go back to Canada, he had access to a gym and ice, unlike most of his teammates, who spent the pandemic in the United States.

That paid dividends for Ciccolini, and it has been evident since his return to practice.

“I think just going into battles and stuff like that and being more aggressive on the puck,” Ciccolini said. “I am more confident doing that and knowing that nothing bad’s gonna go wrong with my shoulder.”

With five forwards from last year’s team gone, Ciccolini will have plenty of opportunities to prove he can play an important role for Michigan going forward. 

And if he’s fully healthy, there’s no reason to believe he can’t do exactly that.

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