Story in Photos: 2022 Ice Hockey Semifinals

March 11, 2022

PLYMOUTH – Saturday’s MHSAA Hockey Finals are set after a six-game series of Semifinals on Thursday and Friday that featured two overtime games and one team’s advancement to championship day for the first time.

All three Finals are Saturday at Plymouth’s USA Hockey Arena:

Division 2 – 11 a.m. – Hartland vs. Trenton
Division 3 – 3 p.m. – Orchard Lake St. Mary’s vs. Midland Dow
Division 1 – 7 p.m. – Detroit Catholic Central vs. Brighton

Hockey Weekly Action Photos captured plenty of action from the Semifinals – all photos and text below are by John Castine. Click for more as they are posted.

Division 1 hockey

Brighton's Jack Sexsmith (2) celebrates with teammates after he broke up a scoreless tie early in the second period Friday over Grandville, as Brighton went on to score three more times in the period on the way to winning the Division 1 Semifinal, 4-1.

Division 1 hockey

Brighton goalie Levi Pennala prepares to glove a shot on goal from Grandville, one of 18 saves he made in the 4-1 win. 

Division 1 hockey

Detroit Catholic Central's Nolan Galda celebrates his goal during the second period of the Shamrocks’ 6-0 win over Midland in a Division 1 Semifinals on Friday.

Division 1 hockey

DCC's Ryan Wantuck is stopped by Midland goalie Aiden O'Malley.

Division 2 hockey

Ashton Trombley (16) scores the winning goal for Hartland just 14 seconds into overtime as the Eagles defeated Marquette, 3-2, in a Division 2 Semifinal on Thursday.

Division 2 hockey

Hartland goalie Kameron Ragon stops a Marquette shot late in the third period to keep the score 2-2.

Division 2 hockey

Trenton goalie Noah Miklos makes a glove save during the third period of his team’s 4-2 Division 2 Semifinal win over Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice.

Division 2 hockey

Trenton peppered Brother Rice goalie Tommy O'Donnell with 32 shots, including this one that he had to stop with his face mask.

Division 3 hockey

Orchard Lake St. Mary's defenseman Dylan Magdich fires the game-winning shot at the Warren De La Sale Collegiate net at 5:41 of the third overtime of a 2-1 Division 3 Semifinal win Friday.

Division 3 hockey

Eagles teammate Caden Berninger celebrates as the puck reaches the net for the deciding goal.

Midland Dow's assistant captain Billy VanSumeren is all smiles after his second goal gave his team a third-period 4-2 lead Friday that withstood a Calumet last-minute comeback attempt. The 4-3 win put Dow into Saturday’s Division 3 Final against Orchard Lake St. Mary's, which will be its first appearance in a championship game.

Division 3 hockey

A lot of bodies went flying in the Calumet/Dow Semifinal, including Nolan Sanders of Dow who took a hard landing after his short stint in air out front of the crease of Calumet goalie Aksel Loukus.  

TOP PHOTO Trenton's Hayden Oboza celebrates his goal in the third period Thursday that proved the game winner against Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice in a Division 2 Semifinal. Oboza would then add an insurance goal into an empty net after the Warriors pulled their goalie in their effort to tie the game during the last minute.

Gaylord's Looker Shows 'Different Type of Tough' in Return from Knee Tear

By Tom Spencer
Special for MHSAA.com

February 3, 2023

When Gage Looker went down with an ACL injury in Gaylord’s first football game this fall, Liz Harding – president of the Blue Devils’ hockey boosters – was absolutely devastated.

Looker, an all-conference hockey defenseman last winter, was playing, as a senior, in his first-ever varsity football game. Harding, also Looker’s mom, was there.

“I caught the one and only picture of him playing football just before he injured himself,” Harding recalled. “I was devastated!”

Doctors indicated surgery was necessary and recovery would prevent Looker from getting back on the ice, the football field and the track where Looker had dreams of great success this year.

“Knowing hockey is his passion — and thoughts of him not playing did not set well with me — Gage started what I would call standard physical therapy a couple days after surgery and then added an additional blood flow therapy with our local trainer to his weekly routine,” Harding said. “Through his hard work and determination, he is back on the ice.”

The Blue Devils, after graduating their other four all-conference players from last winter, were 2-11 this year when Looker returned to the ice against Big North Conference rival Petoskey. Gaylord has won three of seven since.

Gaylord coach Jamie Voss believes Looker’s return was pretty much a miracle. And he thinks Looker is playing at about 80 percent despite being only a few months removed from the injury.

“Gage tore his ACL and was told by doctors his sports life was over,” Voss said. “Gage would not accept this, and he trained harder than any kid I have ever witnessed to prove the doctors wrong.”

Sans injury, Voss notes Looker was certain to graduate on several all-time Gaylord hockey record lists.

“The reports on his progress and rehab were literally off the charts for this type of injury,” Voss said.  “His doctors reported early that they have never seen this occur before regarding the strength developments in the afflicted areas that support his ACL tear.”

Voss admitted he had to hold his breath a little – as many Gaylord supporters did – when Looker joined the starting lineup against Petoskey. That moment came after just a week on the ice, including full contact practices.

Looker, right, watches his football teammates from the sideline this fall. “More important than records to Gage was his commitment and obligation to be our team leader as our compete level was predictably down this season,” Voss said. “Gage is one of the best athletes and citizens that I have ever been allowed to coach. 

“He is not only a leader to the players on and off the ice, but Gage also is the kind of kid that coaches learn from,” Voss went on. “He is mature beyond his years.”

Looker, who started playing hockey at 4 years old, dabbled with football as a freshman although an eighth-grade hip injury kept him away from the field until this fall. Looker’s size – 6-foot-3, 245 pounds – led to many encouragements to give football another try.

“I went the rest of my high school career being told that I needed to play football,” Looker said. “So I said ‘why not’ my senior year because I could use the extra strength for hockey.”

Looker knew the morning after his one-and-only career football game that he needed medical attention promptly. A quick MRI showed extensive damage.

Looker was told he literally “blew apart” his ACL.

“My stomach dropped,” Looker said. “I was not ready for that at all.

“I was shown what my PCL looked like and then went to where my ACL should be, and it was gone — some say it was deleted,” Looker continued. “I was told I will not be able to play sports for about seven to nine months, and I was speechless.”

Two months after surgery and extensive physical therapy, Looker tried to skate. It went so well he began to entertain thoughts of playing hockey again. He may aspire to compete in track & field this spring. 

“He runs a 56-second quarter mile and throws the shot put 48 feet, 10 inches,” Voss said of his dominating defender. “And although he is restricted from running, something tells me this kid will run track this spring.”

While it is not the senior hockey season it could have been without the injury, many are glad to just have Looker on the ice. His mom is among them.

Looker tries to stuff the puck past Tawas’ goaltender.“I am overjoyed to have him back on the ice,” Harding said. “At least he is getting in a few games and is out there making a difference.

“The smile on his face is priceless,” she continued. “Perhaps he'll continue with track as he is set to break records there too.”

Rehab fresh out of surgery was “very boring,” so Looker started intensifying his recovery with therapy four days a week for a few months.

“It was a lot of commitment, but I needed my senior year of hockey,” Looker said. “I was doing the basic things, and then I had a machine that could stimulate my muscles and pump blood to my knee.

“It is called ARPneuro,” he continued. “I was skating with that on my leg as well as doing mini workouts at home.”

ARP — accelerated, recovery and performance — reportedly accelerates recovery time by decreasing chronic pain and increasing range of motion without the use of medications.  

“I was always putting as much work in as I could,” Looker said. “It definitely paid off in the end.”

Looker’s coach agrees.

“I have never heard of this, nor witnessed it,” Voss said. “Gage Looker is an anomaly, and in my opinion a different type of tough.

“Gage returned to practice full contact three months after he tore his ACL,” Voss continued. “And he played his first hockey game logging 30 of 51 minutes a week later.”

Looker credits the support and effort of his medical team and his teammates for helping him get back on track. However, no one gets more credit that the booster president.

“My mom and teammates helped me through it,” he said. “My mom was always on me about doing my workouts and keeping me disciplined.”

Tom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at tomspencer@chartermi.net with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Gaylord’s Gage Looker has returned to the ice this season only a few months after a serious knee injury. (Middle) Looker, right, watches his football teammates from the sideline this fall. (Below) Looker tries to stuff the puck past Tawas’ goaltender. (Photos by Rob DeForge/RD Sports Photo.)