As Jonny Tychonick returned home to Calgary during the Christmas break, there were three simple words from his oldest brother, Alex, that followed him back to Omaha for the second half.
“Before I left he said ‘just do you’ in the second half, and that’s what I’m focused on,” Tychonick said. “Just be myself out there and be the player I know I can be.”
So far this season, it hasn’t been easy for Tychonick to be himself on the ice. Frankly, it hasn’t been easy for him to be on the ice much at all. After playing in the Mavericks’ first two games of the season in early October, Tychonick suffered a lower-body injury and was sidelined for the next nine weeks. The senior defenseman was off the ice entirely for more than a month and missed 12 games.
Around this time last year, Tychonick tested positive for COVID-19 and also missed the first three games of the second half. When he transferred to Omaha in April of 2020, it was predominantly in search of more playing time, but it’s been tough for Tychonick to gain much traction or settle into a routine throughout his two seasons with the Mavericks.
“It’s been frustrating,” Tychonick said. “I’ve definitely dealt with my fair share of adversity. COVID put me out for a month and I never really felt like myself until right before the NCAA Tournament game against Minnesota. Losing 25 pounds really zinged me too, so it just took a while.
“I was feeling really, really good coming into this season, then some quick movement side to side happened and all of a sudden I’m out nine weeks.”
Tychonick ended up playing in 23 of Omaha’s 26 games last season and played his best hockey towards the end of the year. However, he came into this season knowing he needed to be better.
After what Tychonick said was one of the best summers of his life, he returned to Omaha motivated, confident and ready to get off to a strong start. Then the injury happened.
“I had a really solid plan for myself this year, but it’s a contact sport and injuries are going to happen,” he said. “It’s just how you deal with them. I dealt with a lot of adversity when I was younger and those moments have helped me become who I am now, so I try to look at this the same way. Some people would just want to sit on the couch and not do anything, but I feel like I attacked (the recovery) right away and did everything that I needed to do to come back ready to go.”
A big part of that recovery stems from a series of connections from the summer. In addition to working with Mike Lewis in Omaha, Tychonick spent time this past offseason working with Ian Mack at Tomahawk Science, a Chicago-based sports science team that has worked with several NHL stars such as Auston Matthews and Patrick Kane.
Those summer workouts were mainly focused on mobility, fixing body imbalances and strength, specifically for the glutes and core muscles. Tychonick also leaned on the team in Chicago throughout the recovery from his injury.
Between the work with Tomahawk’s Igor Novakovic (who came to Omaha for two weekends this fall), Lewis, Taryn Ninemire (Omaha’s Physical Therapist) and the rest of the Omaha staff, Tychonick said the past few months have been eye-opening and almost a blessing in disguise for his future.
“I’m already feeling stronger out there and really have noticed a difference with my skating stride as well, but I almost looked at this injury as an opportunity to fix myself,” Tychonick said. “There were a lot of long, tough days and a lot of communication throughout the (recovery) process, but we built a solid plan. And it was tough because it wasn’t just a matter of getting stretched out, it was a lot of workouts. There was one weekend where I went seven hours the first day and six hours the second, so it wasn’t nice and easy stuff. I was working hard every single day to try and progress every single day.”
“Most tissue injuries are 100% after 12 weeks, around 80% after eight, 50% after six and so on,” Tychonick continued. “So it’s a slow progression. But with myself, nine weeks was three weeks ahead of the 12 that it usually takes, so I’m excited to be back healthy.”
Tychonick was eased back into the lineup and returned on Dec. 3 against Colorado College. He played in the final four games before the break.
“I think the first weekend against CC, the focus was to just get back into it and gradually get back to game speed,” he said. “I had a good first shift in both games, but just kind of went downhill and I wasn’t that good honestly. There’s nothing like playing in a game though, and I was coming back from nine weeks without playing, so that was big for me just to get in and see how the body felt.
“Then at Western (Michigan) I felt really good and now I feel even better. I’m at 100%.I’m out there every day, and I’m exactly where I want to be right now.”
On top of returning to the lineup for this season, a lot of Tychonick’s future depends on this second half too. A second-round pick of the Ottawa Senators in 2018, the once highly-touted Canadian prospect stock has fallen considerably. His draft rights expire on Aug. 15, 2022.
The Calgary native has since been passed by multiple defensemen on Ottawa’s depth chart and missing nine weeks this season hasn’t helped either. Some around the sport wonder if the Senators will even come calling and offer a contract.
From Tychonick’s perspective, his focus hasn’t changed and he’ll let the future play itself out. The confidence has always been there — especially on the offensive side of his game, where you can see flashes of the potential that made him the 48th overall pick in 2018. Along with his focus, his dream hasn’t changed either.
“As a hockey player you want to move on to the next level,” Tychonick said. “That’s everybody’s goal and I want to play hockey for as long as I can. I don’t want to sit at a 9-5 job and I’m not a very big desk person, so I want to be out playing hockey and playing a kids game for a living. That’s my ultimate dream, but I want to make sure I’m ready for it. It’s a day-by-day, game-by-game, moment-by-moment process, and that’s something I live by, so I try not to get too far ahead of myself.
“And sure, I’ve definitely thought about (playing professionally) and that was part of the plan at the start of this year, but there was a hiccup with an injury. So I’m just going to see how the second half goes, see how I progress, and make my decisions based on a lot of communication with other people and family members.”
In the meantime, Tychonick’s focus is on this weekend as the Mavericks travel to Upstate New York. The defenseman finds himself on a team that’s 13-5, coming off a big 1-0 road win at Western Michigan last time out and looking to finish near the top of the NCHC come March.
Back healthy and in a routine, Tychonick now wants to get back on track and do his part. It starts with playing consistently and being the player he knows he can be.
“Nothing is slowing me down now,” he said. “I feel really good out there (health-wise) and really confident, and it’s just me playing my game. That’s all I have to do. It’s what got me to this point and that’s all I need to focus on.”
Game one between No. 14 Omaha and St. Lawrence gets underway Friday at 6 p.m. CT in Canton, N.Y. Game two will follow at the same time.