Two summers ago, Jason Ryznar departed on a long, arduous journey to Michigan. It was the summer before his junior year, and Ryznar was getting ready to head back to Ann Arbor from his hometown of Anchorage, Alaska. He had just bought a new car — a black Ford Mustang — and he had to figure out how to bring it to the Midwest.

Ice Hockey
After breaking his finger three weeks ago, Jason Ryznar hopes to return against Bowling Green. (JASON COOPER/Daily)

Ryznar and his brother decided to drive the Mustang all the way to Michigan — a trip of over 65 hours. The two of them, who are both over 6-feet tall, squeezed into the compact car to make the trip over a period of six and a half days. They even had some friends follow them in another car.

“I’ve always wanted to do the drive,” Ryznar said. “And I was fortunate enough to get a car, so, instead of shipping it to Seattle, I thought it would be a beautiful drive. I just wanted to give it a try.”

But traveling 4,000 miles in less than a week is not all fun and games. In that short period of time, in a cramped car, Ryznar and his brother were very tired. They went north toward Fairbanks, Alaska, through Alberta and down into Montana. Around Calgary, Alberta, they decided to drive without stopping for sleep for the next 30 hours. And in North Dakota, they ran into a little bit of trouble.

“I’m driving on the main highway, and I start slowing down,” Ryznar said. “And my brother’s like, ‘What are you doing?’ And I was like, ‘The train’s coming.’ He looks at me like I’m on just on drugs or something.”

What Ryznar thought was a train bearing down on him was, in fact, just a barn on a local farm.

Said Ryznar with a smirk: “After that, (my brother) was like, ‘Give me the keys. I’m driving.’ ”

The brothers completed the trip without any problems. They made it through North Dakota and Minnesota, and they took a ferry from Wisconsin into Michigan. Ryznar then proceeded to put up 17 points for the Wolverines that season — and all but five came in the second half of the season.

This year, he picked up right where he left off, totaling a career-high 20 points in 28 games. And then he went down.

On a power play against Northern Michigan, Ryznar crouched on one knee to block a shot and was hit in the hand with the puck. The senior finished the game but was taken to the hospital immediately afterwards. His finger was broken, and he needed surgery.

Since then, he has been working hard to get back on the ice. Berenson praised Ryznar for his intensity against the Wildcats.

“If you watched the game on Saturday, he might have been our best forward,” Berenson said the week after the injury. “He was really playing strong like the power forward..”

But Ryznar is back on the ice now. He skated with the team for the first time last week and spent most of his time sprinting without the puck. His stitches were taken out last Thursday, and, this week in practice, he has been passing lightly and taking some wrist shots. Nothing hard though — Ryznar has been shying away from strong slap shots and one-timers. He’s been working hard, and he hopes to be back on the ice for the regular season finale against Bowling Green in two weeks.

“He’s working his tail off,” Berenson said last week. “He’s a great kid, and he senses the urgency. This is the stretch run of his career at Michigan, and he can’t wait to get back into that.”

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