Sometimes great inspiration can be found in the smallest thing.

Paul Wong
TOM FELDKAMP/Daily
Unlike Frodo Baggins, senior John Shouneyia (left) and his companion Mike Cammalleri (right) will not have to dispose of their CCHA Championship rings in the depths of Mordor.

For the Michigan hockey team, inspiration is one of the things it needs to reclaim as it heads into the heart of its CCHA schedule. Luckily enough, the Wolverines received a tiny, but heavy, gift in the form of last year’s championship rings. The importance? Well, last year’s team endured a 3-3-3 stretch at the end of December and early January, but yet, still won the CCHA (regular season and playoffs) and made it to the Frozen Four. That period of time mirrors the current 4-4 run the Wolverines are in now.

One can’t help but look at the five-pound behemoth of a ring and not be reminded of the struggle that last year’s team endured to get it – including a near disastrous first round in the CCHA Tournament when the Wolverines dropped the opener of a best-of-three series to last-place Lake Superior State.

“We did a lot of work last year, and it’s a reward for something that can’t be taken away,” senior John Shouneyia said. “For this year, it’s something we can look back on and know how hard we had to work to get there. I think we know that’s not the ultimate goal.”

That ultimate goal is to make it to the Frozen Four in Buffalo, N.Y. and to surpass last year’s 3-2 loss to Minnesota in the semifinals. The Wolverines spotted the Golden Gophers a three-goal lead before they got on the board.

But with April far enough away, and a week off before resuming action next Thursday against Lake Superior State, Michigan can sit back and enjoy the beauty that they now own.

“In the middle they have some diamonds … or cubic zirconium … I don’t know what they are,” sophomore Jason Ryznar said. “There’s some emeralds on the side, they’re real nice. It says your name, ‘CCHA Champs’ and ‘Frozen Four’ on the side, too.”

With all of that on one ring and given the not-so-sumo like fingers of the players, it would be a wonder if anyone on campus saw those emeralds in public.

“I’ll probably just keep mine on my desk for something to look at,” Ryznar said.

Although it can’t be showcased in front of everyone, the players are appreciative of getting something.

“For high school we got a state championship ring, but it’s not nearly as nice or as big as that one,” Ryznar added.

The seniors on the team know what it’s like to receive praise in ring form, having done so in 2000 by winning the CCHA regular season. So excuse them if they enjoy this year’s gift, but are still not satisfied until they get their ‘precious’ that has been in the hands of other teams since the Wolverines last obtained it in 1998.

“That’s definitely the nicest one,” Shouneyia said of this year’s ring. “But we’ve seen the one that we want.”

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