By Alex Plough

FRUITPORT TOWNSHIP – For the past five years, as an assistant coach, Chris Benedict watched the Mona Shores hockey team lose quite a few games.

On Wednesday night, in his first game as head coach, Benedict had the pleasure of watching the Sailors soar.

Austin Grimm moves the puck along the boards for Mona Shores. Photo/Jason Goorman

Mona Shores, which has finished significantly below the .500 mark for the past few seasons, opened up its 2019-20 campaign in style, posting a convincing 8-0 victory over Kalamazoo United at Lakeshore Sports Centre.

The game ended midway through the third period, due to the mercy rule, following the Sailors’ final goal. Mona Shores outshot the visitors 39-6.

The Sailors collected two goals apiece from two players on different ends of the experience spectrum – senior captain Connor Winegar (who also had three assists) and freshman Trent Benedict.

All three freshmen on the Mona Shores roster scored, including Isaac Habetler and Jake Nanna.

“You know, the last couple of seasons we’ve struggled, and sometimes it has taken some time to get that first win in the books to start the season,” Benedict said. “It’s nice to get it off of our backs and get back to work.

“Roughly I think we’ve had 12 wins over the past two seasons. We’ve struggled, but it’s a new season and we’re building.”

The Sailors wasted no time taking control of the contest.

Habetler got his team on the board with a goal exactly one minute into the first period, with assists from Connor Winegar and Ty Langlois. With 7:20 remaining in the first, a 3-on-1 Sailors breakaway resulted in a goal for Langlois, with assists from Connor Winegar and Nolan Kasher.

Benedict scored with 5:30 remaining in the first, with assists from Kolin Jackson and Habetler, putting Mona Shores up 3-0.  With less than a minute left in the first period, Justin Winegar found the back of the net with a power play goal, with assists from Langlois and Connor Winegar.

Isaac Habetler controls the puck for Mona Shores. Photo/Jason Goorman

The Sailors led 4-0 at the end of the first period.

Benedict scored an unassisted goal midway through the second period to give the Sailors a five-goal advantage. With 2:35 remaining in the period, Connor Winegar scored with Scotty Cotner assisting. Less than a minute later, Connor Winegar struck again, with assists coming from Langlois and Cotner.

Mona Shores recorded an impressive 26 shots on goal in the second period.

The game ended abruptly just 4:08 into the third period when Nanna found the net during a 5-on-3 power play, invoking the eight-goal mercy rule. Austin Grimm and Jacob Leibrandt had assists on the final tally.

“I thought our jump was good,” Coach Benedict said. “That’s going to be a strength of ours – team speed. We came out right away and we controlled it in their zone for a good amount of the first period. It would be good to see us shoot more. I think we tried to get too fancy a little bit. Other than that, I was happy.”

Mona Shores goalie TJ Habetler recorded the shutout, stopping all six shots he faced. The Sailors will host Kenowa Hills next Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.