By Greg Gielczyk
What he wants his players to remember is what happened a year ago, when the Bulldogs overcame a two-goal deficit to beat the Sailors, 3-2 in the MHSAA regional final.
The two meet in the Division 2 regional final again Wednesday night at 7:30 in Muskegon, and the Sailors are eager to gain a measure of revenge on the Bulldogs.
In this year’s regular season game, the Bulldogs also managed to overcome a Sailors’ lead to forge a tie in a back-and-forth game. The Sailors scored early in overtime for the victory.
“Honestly, we’re not really going to take anything from that (game),” said Benedict. “We played them early in December, and we’re definitely a different team, and they’re a different team.
“I think they’ve had more time to get their systems down. They lost a lot of seniors last year, and their younger guys have gotten more time to play together.
“They work hard. They’re very well-coached. Taylor Keyworth does a really nice job with them over there. So, I’m expecting to see a different team from them than we did in December, that’s for sure.”
Benedict also expects a more low scoring game.
“We played them at 10 a.m. that day,” Benedict said. “It’s tough for high school kids to get up for a game at 10 a.m. It shouldn’t be, but especially against another good team.
“I know Taylor probably felt the same way. But, definitely I’m expecting a low scoring affair. We’ll see if that plays out.”
Mona Shores is hoping to build on its 7-1 victory over Reeths-Puffer in the regional semifinal, when Benedict felt the Sailors came close to playing a consistent 51 minutes.
But, the coaches preached in practice Monday that the Sailors need to keep striving to have consistency for a full game, and not take any shifts off, because the Bulldogs will capitalize on every mistake.
“I think our guys are up for it, and they’ll do just that,” Benedict added. “You want to get to the top, you’ve got to climb the ladder.
“Each game is a step, and you miss a step and you’re back down at the bottom watching everyone else go up.”
Benedict said the key for the Bulldogs is their goalie, junior Carson MacKenzie. He’s a returning All-State netminder, and has the experience.
“They’re pretty solid all the way around,” said Benedict. “They’ve got some really strong defensemen, and a potent offense led by (junior) Brady Breit. He can score with the best of them.
“I’ve been extremely happy with the development of our team. We’ve taken some lumps in a couple losses, but we’ve grown from those.
“You never want to lose, but if you can learn from it, it’s a good teaching tool.”