This is Jason Ryznar’s time of year.
Michigan’s 6-foot-4 forward scored the game-winning goal on Sunday to send the Wolverines to their third consecutive Frozen Four. After the game, coach Red Berenson said that Ryznar is playing the best hockey of his career right now.
The Anchorage, Alaska native thinks his health might have something to do with that. Ryznar injured his right shoulder in Michigan’s first game of the season against Niagara on Oct. 11. He returned two weeks later, only to hurt his left shoulder in his first game back.
“I think the injuries were a setback, especially for a big kid who misses some time on the ice,” assistant coach Billy Powers said. “It seems that it always takes the big guys a little longer to get into a real flow. I think for Ryz, you know, this is Ryz’s midseason right now. He’s got a lot of energy.”
The Michigan coaching staff also said that Ryznar’s style is well suited for the postseason game. His big frame and soft hands make him difficult to handle in the corners.
“A lot of the little things in playoff hockey aren’t necessarily finesse,” Berenson said. “You’ve got all these good players, but they’re playing so hard, and it’s so important, that there’s not a lot of room to choose between players. But Ryznar is separating himself from players just because he’s so strong along the boards. He’s giving us a big boost in that area. This is his kind of hockey.”
The sophomore has teamed with center David Moss over the second half of the season to become Michigan’s most physical pairing. Their work behind the net starts before the game, when the two sit down with a chart of the opposing team to see how big their defense is. The homework also makes life better for their other linemate, Milan Gajic.
“It’s easy when you’re playing with guys that are big but are skilled at the same time,” Gajic said. “If they’re just big, and they’re not skilled, it kind of poses some problems where they can go in and hit, but after that they can’t do anything. But with these guys, they’re big, they’re massive, they can move the puck, and they can score. And I think they showed that over the weekend.”
According to Powers, the line has been at the top of its game lately. And the guys couldn’t have picked a better time.
“We’ve had success here at Michigan because (this has) been a team time of year,” Powers said. “If you don’t have everybody going, you’re not moving on.”
Making it big: Ferris State lost to Minnesota in the NCAA Tournament last Saturday. So it’s no surprise that Bulldogs star Chris Kunitz has already had a better week.
The senior, who torched the Wolverines and the rest of the CCHA for 35-44-79 totals, signed a two-year contract with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim on Tuesday and was then named one of three finalists for the prestigious Hobey Baker Award yesterday.
Cornell goalie Dave LeNevue and Colorado College forward Peter Sejna are also finalists.
– The Associated Press contributed to this report.