The truth is, COVID-19 and the whole pandemic has been bad for everyone. All high school teams have suffered to one extent or another. No one has been spared
But you’ll have to excuse the Gabriel Richard hockey team if it feels a little extra picked on.
Last spring, after a brilliant playoff run, coach Rick DeSana’s club reached the Division 3 state semifinals where the Pioneers were set to face Midland Dow. Only Richard, Dow, Calumet and Country Day were left in the tournament. The Pioneers were one win away from the state title game and two wins away from their first state championship.
And then COVID stepped in and the end of the 2020 tournament was cancelled.
The Pioneers shook it off and came back this year after a two-month COVID season delay and they played well. Richard posted a 4-3-1 record eight games, but with a little luck and one or two more goals the Pioneers easily could have been 6-2 or even 7-1.
Richard skated to a 2-2 tie with Grosse Ile on Feb. 20 and three days later got the notification that the Red Devils had a COVID outbreak and the Pioneers would have to quarantine for 14 days.
With eight games in the books and a seeded position in the state tournament guaranteed, DeSana decided he’d seen enough and, although the Pioneers will be cleared to play again before the state tournament starts, the coach is pulling the plug.
DeSana said it is not worth playing extra regular season games and risking another virus exposure from another team, so the Pioneers will take their 4-3-1 record and prepare for the upcoming state tournament.
Hopefully the team can keep its competitive edge because it has played well this season. Two of the team’s three losses came against good opponents – Chelsea and U-D Jesuit. The Pioneers fell to the Bulldogs 2-1 and to U-D 1-0 and both games went into overtime.
“We have done a good job of keeping the goals down this year,” DeSana said. “We’ve played some pretty good defense and our goaltenders have complimented that.”
Those goaltenders – junior NIck Abrahamson and freshman Ryan Riney – have split the duties throughout the shortened season.
Defensive help has come from junior captain Gavin Fink and junior assistant captain Aiden Wishart.
“Those guys have played against every other team’s top lines,” said DeSana.
The offense has been a little light this season, but the Pioneers have gotten good production out of Robbie Chiles, Jimmy Monks and Sebastien Potter.
MHSAA regionals begin March 15 this year and Richard will be at the Yack against the same cast characters they faced last year – Wyandotte, Riverview, Carlson, Grosse Ile, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central and Bedford