Michonski Thrives on the Ice and Diamond
For the past three years, Ryan Michonski has been a two-sport varsity athlete at North Branford High School, playing ice hockey and baseball for the Thunderbirds. Ryan, who is going to continue his baseball career at Nichols College, finished his hockey career at North Branford by earning All-Conference honors as a senior captain this winter.
Ryan’s uncle Jack Duffy played hockey for North Branford, after which he went on to become an All-American at Yale and then compete in the American Hockey League. Ryan’s brother Jack and his cousin Nate Duffy were both hockey players, with Jack competing for the T-Birds. After watching his family play and having his mother Margaret taking him to skate at Choate, Ryan decided to give hockey a shot.
Ryan started playing hockey with the Wallingford Hawks when he was four. Ryan wasn’t the biggest fan of the sport at first, and it took some effort to get him on the ice. After playing for the Hawks through his 3rd-grade season, Ryan joined the Greater New Haven Warriors, where he fell in love with hockey after seeing how competitive it can be.
Ryan competed for the Warriors until his second year of bantams, at which point he joined the CT Chiefs. At every stop, Ryan made friends and worked with knowledgeable coaches, improving his hockey skills and making him want to play the sport more.
“I’ve met so many kids through every team. A bunch of my friends play hockey,” says Ryan. “I’ve been lucky with some good coaching.”
Ryan started off on the defensive side of the ice and stayed there during his years in pee-wees and squirts. However, in his first year of bantams, Ryan moved up to the forward position.
It was a change that resonated with Ryan, who found that he liked getting the puck on his stick and putting his team in the best position to score.
“I have a pick-your-head up, pass-first mentality,” Ryan says. “If there’s no options, skate it, and see how far I can get it. Then, I’ll try and get a shot off.”
While Ryan enjoys hockey, he also loves baseball. Ryan began playing baseball around the same time that he started hockey. In his freshman year at North Branford, he decided to focus on baseball and step away from the ice.
However, during his sophomore year, Ryan’s brother Jack was appointed as a senior captain of the T-Birds’ hockey squad. Ryan decided to come back, lace up his skates, and play hockey alongside his brother one more time.
Ryan promptly took on a pivotal role once he joined the Thunderbirds, starting on North Branford’s top line from day one. Ryan was ready for the challenge since he knew the style of hockey that North Branford wanted to play and had gained plenty of valuable experience, particularly from his time with the Chiefs.
“It wasn’t too bad. I had seen most of the kids play before,” says Ryan. “I went to the games my freshman year whenever I could. It wasn’t too bad of a jump since I played Division I hockey.”
Ryan and the T-Birds recently completed a season that saw North Branford win nine games and qualify for the Division II State Tournament. It was a big-time turnaround for the Thunderbirds, who had won just two games between the two previous campaigns.
At the end of the season, Ryan was named to All-SCC/SWC Division II Second Team. Ryan knew he had scoring ability coming into high school. However, Ryan feels that his success with the T-Birds was more about understanding that the work you put in outweighs any flashy play you can make.
“It’s not about making the cute plays. It’s about hard work at the end of the day,” Ryan says. “I don’t know if I’d say I necessarily improved. I just stayed on a steady pace.”
In addition to garnering All-Conference accolades, Ryan also served as a captain for North Branford alongside fellow seniors Dakota Cooper and Joey Marra this year. Ryan took being captain seriously and, while it was a big responsibility, he made sure to set a good example for the underclassmen. As a leader on the team, Ryan thoroughly enjoyed playing on this year’s squad.
“It was definitely fun. It was a big responsibility since we had such a young team. I really wanted to set a good example for the team next year,” says Ryan. “By the end of the year, I didn’t want it to end. I realized how much fun I had this season with this group.”
Head Coach Ralph Shaw says that Ryan’s skills on the ice were complemented by his leadership in the locker room. After excelling in both areas, Ryan was named North Branford’s Most Valuable Player and also presented with the team’s Hobey Baker Award this year.
“Ryan is a solid player in the locker room and on the ice. He has developed his leadership skills and his talent on the ice,” Coach Shaw says. “Ryan led the team in points and was named the Team MVP this season. He also received the Hobey Baker award for his leadership and character. He will be a tough player to replace.”
Ryan has also been a member of the North Branford baseball team for the past four years, playing varsity since his sophomore season. After he graduates, Ryan will play baseball at Nichols College in Dudley, Massachusetts.
A forward in hockey, Ryan suits up as a catcher on the baseball field. Ryan feels that both positions have similar aspects, and he understands that no matter which sport he’s playing, he always has to lead his team and contribute to the best of his abilities.
“In hockey, being a center and taking faceoffs, being a wing or being a captain, it’s fun being in charge. Being on the first line, you know you have to produce. You’re there for a reason,” says Ryan. “With baseball, a lot of satisfaction comes with catching and being good at it. It takes a lot of hard work.”
Whether he’s on the ice or the diamond, Ryan is always proud to wear a jersey that reads North Branford across the chest. With his mother and uncle having attended North Branford High School, Ryan feels honored to carry on his family’s legacy.
“I’m kind of living on the legacy. My mom went to the school. My uncle also did,” Ryan says. “There’s nothing better than supporting your hometown.”