By Dave Tomczak
MUSKEGON – It had been 10 long years since the Mona Shores hockey team had won a conference championship.
That Sailors ended that drought in dramatic fashion on Friday, scoring two third-period goals to claim a 3-2 comeback victory over Hudsonville at Lakeshore Sports Centre, in a showdown for the championship of the O-K Conference Fischer Division.
The title-clinching goal came from Ty Langlois on a power play with 4:08 left in the game.
Mona Shores finished the regular season with a 17-8 overall record and an 8-2 mark in the conference. Hudsonville could have won title with a victory over the Sailors on Friday and a win over Jenison on Saturday, but it wasn’t to be.
“I’m so happy for the team,” Sailors coach Chris Benedict said. “They worked so hard for this. Our guys knew they had to take care of this today.”
Hudsonville took a 1-0 lead 9:55 into the first period when Ryan Blackburn flipped a shot up and over a diving TJ Habetler, the Mona Shores goalie.
The Sailors evened the game at 1-1 with 1:33 left in the first period. Conner Winegar had a shot get past the Eagles’ goalie, but not across the goal line, then Nathan Taylor knocked it in to knot the score.
Hudsonville’s Brendan Schaltz scored just 41 seconds later, and the Eagles led 2-1 after one period.
“That’s frustrating for any coach to have your team score a big goal, especially in a big game like this, then have them come right back down and score so quickly, especially so late in the period,” Benedict said.
Mona Shores controlled the second period, outshooting Hudsonville 12-5, and holding the Eagles without a shot for more than seven minutes.
It appeared that the Sailors had tied the game 6:13 into the period, but a goal was waved off due to the net coming off its base. Mona Shores still trailed 2-1 after two periods.
The Sailor offense continued to generate chances as third period play began, and with 7:17 left in the game it finally paid off.
Jacob Leibrandt took a pass and skated between the faceoff circles, used a screen in front of the net, then beat the Eagles’goalie with a shot high on the glove side, tying the game at 2-2.
Hudsonville was called for a cross-checking penalty 1:15 later, giving Mona Shores a man advantage at a crucial point of the game.
Langlois scooped up a rebound and fired a backhand shot into the net with just six seconds left on the power-play and 4:08 in the game, and it proved to be the game winner.
“I’ve been in a drought with goals lately,” Langlois said. “To have that goal go in was a great feeling.”
Hudsonville had a final chance to pull even when Shores was called for holding with 1:33 left in the game.
The Eagles called time out and pulled their for a two-skater advantage, but were unable to get a shot on net, much less the tying goal.
“We’ve been down quite a bit this year and it hasn’t stopped us at all,” said Habetler, who finished with 32 saves in goal. “It’s awesome (winning the conference). We’ve put in a lot of hard work and we’ve come together as a team, There was no stopping us.”
Mona Shores finished with a 40-34 shot advantage. Winegar had two assists, and Nathan Taylor, Andrew Taylor and Dylan Dieselberg had one apiece.