MUSKEGON — Mona Shores ice hockey team gets another crack at Byron Center in the MHSAA Division 2 regional championship game Wednesday night after skating to a 7-1 semifinal victory over Reeths-Puffer on Saturday at Lakeshore Sports Centre.
It’s the rematch from last year’s regional final when Byron Center overcame a two-goal deficit to turn back the Sailors, 3-2 which still stings.
Byron Center advanced with a 4-2 win over Ada Forest Hills Eastern in its regional semifinal earlier on Saturday. The Bulldogs improved to 16-9-1.
The Sailors (22-4) were never seriously threatened in the semifinal, as they built a 5-0 lead in the second period before the Rockets avoided the shutout when Isaiah Winters sent the puck into the net late in the second period.
“We played well. It was one of our first games where we actually came close to playing a full 51 minutes,” said Sailors coach Chris Benedict.
“I was happy with our guys. We’ve been really impressing on them the need to not take any plays off, and keeping focused every minute out there. Being consistent the entire game.
“Overall, I was just pleased with our effort. If guys took a shift off, it was very few and far between. We were buzzing the whole night.”
An old sports axiom says that sometimes the third game is a charm, but the Sailors made sure that wasn’t the case for the Rockets, who had lost two regular season games to Mona Shores.
Single goals by Trent Benedict, Jack Reelman and Landon Taylor sent the Sailors into the first intermission holding a commanding 3-0 lead.
The Sailors extended their lead to 5-0 in the second period when Zach Leibrandt and Jake Nanna each scored a goal. It was the first of two goals for Nanna.
Reeths-Puffer broke the scoreless drought for the Rockets, but the Sailors took the ice for the third period with a 5-1 lead and with the Rockets getting only nine shots on goal, it was more than enough to secure the win.
The Sailors took the ice for the third period with a 6-1 lead after Ty Langlois put the puck in the back of the net with just 37 seconds left in the second.
Nanna added his second goal of the game less than six minutes into the final period and the Sailors coasted the rest of the way.
Landon Taylor contributed two assists. Adding one apiece were Noah Lepzinski, Leibrandt, Kolin Jackson, Reelman, Nico Taylor, Nanna and Langlois.
Mona Shores defeated the Bulldogs, 6-5 back in December, but Benedict is not looking back on that contest too much.
It’s a new ball game.
“They’re a different team, and we’re a different team,” the Sailors coach said.
“But, they know our players, and we know their players. We’ll get their best game, and they’ll get ours. It’ll be a heck of a matchup.”