A junior hockey player who suffered severe head injuries after being checked into the boards during an Ontario Hockey League game had his condition upgraded from critical to serious on Tuesday.

Ben Fanelli, a defenceman with the Kitchener Rangers, has spent four days at Hamilton General Hospital after being injured in a Friday night home game against the Erie Otters.

The 16-year-old suffered skull and facial fractures during Friday night's 4-0 win over the Otters when he was checked by Erie's Michael Liambas.

Fanelli's helmet broke and flew off as his head, which appeared to strike the metal partition framing the glass at the Zamboni entrance.

Liambas, 20, was in tears as he watched Fanelli twitch and froth at the mouth before being rushed to hospital.

Fanelli was flown to Hamilton General Hospital after being taken to a local hospital in Kitchener.

"A lot of guys were crying," teammate Chris McKinnon told CBC News. "You know, you never want to see that happen to anyone, whether it's a friend or not. We're praying for him."

Rangers players are playing tribute to the rookie defenceman by stitching pieces of his jersey onto the insides of their sweaters.

The Rangers are offering psychological counselling to their players. Fanelli's teammates hope to visit him soon soon in hospital.

Liambus has been suspended until a hearing, which is expected to take place later this week.

With files from The Canadian Press