By Jason Goorman

MUSKEGON — Finishing the regular season strong is what a high school hockey coach wants when their team is on the doorstep of the postseason.

When the last game is at home, there’s added pressure to produce a win for the outgoing seniors. After all, it’s the last game the seniors will ever play on their home ice.

Carter Dethloff stops the Rockford shot late in the third period. Photo/Eric Sturr

Mona Shores hockey managed both scenarios on Friday night in its dominating 5-1 win over Rockford at Lakeshore Sports Centre.

While seniors look forward to playing their last home game, the injury bug bit Mona Shores a little harder this season compared to the past.

One Sailor senior in particular was missing from the ice: Captain Trent Benedict, a four-year starter and Coach Chris Benedict’s son. The forward will be sidelined for the remainder of the season, regardless of how far the Sailors get in the playoffs. Benedict did get on the ice for the first period, but he was in street clothes from the second period on.

“With him (Trent) being out, it’s kind of set in a little bit more,” said Coach Benedict about adjusting to seeing Trent sidelined due to a shoulder injury. “But he’s still around, it’s good to see him in the locker room, good seeing him lead the team. He has been great as the captain and he continues to fill that role well.”

Seeing your senior sidelined due to injury is tough for any parent, but the Benedicts have a special bond through hockey.

“Trent started coming around (the program) when he was a little guy and I was an assistant,” said Benedict, who has been coaching with Mona Shores for the past nine seasons, the last four as head coach. “He’s been around the program for a long time and once he slid into the lineup here, he hasn’t looked back.

“He’s a Sailor through and through and we’re definitely going to miss him.”

Brooks Robinson finds the net for Mona Shores. Photo/Eric Sturr

Senior Brooks Robinson put up solid numbers on Friday with the game-winning goal while adding in a pair of assists. Goalie Carter Dethloff, another senior, had a solid performance with 14 saves.

“Every goal is special,” said Robinson. “Walking down the stairs (at Lakeshore) for the last time with my boys was definitely very emotional. But walking away with a “W” for the last time on this rink was very good.”

Robinson’s senior year is his second on varsity at Mona Shores. But the forward has been playing hockey at Lakeshore a lot longer than 2 years.

“I’ve been coming here since I was 5 or 6 years old,” he said. “It’s a very special place and I wouldn’t want to finish my time here with any other team,” said Robinson.

Dethloff has also been living a second life at Lakeshore since he was just a little tike and his bond with his fellow teammates is just as deep as Robinson. Seeing a fellow senior like Benedict sidelined, is tough for Dethloff. But it gives him motivation between the pipes as the Sailors’ goalie.

“It’s definitely sad to see (Benedict out) but it gives you one more thing to fight for, and one more reason to try and take it all,” said the goalie. “Been playing here since I was 4 years old and it means a lot growing up, playing with these fellas.”

Mona Shores’ Nico Taylor flips the puck past a defender. Photo/Eric Sturr

Mona Shores took a 1-0 lead over Rockford late in the first period on an Ethan Ring goal with assists coming from Robinson and Zach Leibrandt.

Robinson added to the Sailors’ lead 46 seconds into the second period with a goal off helpers from Leibrandt and Noah Lepzinski.

After the Sailors allowed a Rockford goal to slip through, Brady Tilden went on the attack. The sophomore put his team up 3-1 on a power-play tally to close out the second period.

Tilden opened up third-period scoring with his second goal of the night and seventh this season. The last time Tilden had a multi-goal game was the first home game of the season against Grandville on Nov. 19.

“Coming into the season, I just didn’t think I’d get as many goals I’ve gotten,” said Tilden, a first-year varsity player. “I just thought I’d help out my team. It’s really great because nothing is guaranteed at this point and it’s good to know we got a win here at this place tonight.”

Mona Shores added its fifth and final goal of the regular season on a power-play tally by junior forward Nico Taylor. Robinson assisted on the play.

The Sailors heavily outshot Rockford on the night with a 43-14 margin. The team also played a physical game, bodying up on the Rams with some solid hits.

No. 18 Brady Tilden digs the puck out of the corner for the Sailors while Eli Habetler plays from the outside. Photo/Eric Sturr

“The physicality is going to have to get up more,” said Tilden, whose identical twin brother Nathan also is on the team. “When we get into the playoffs, the competition is going to get way harder and physicality is a huge thing if we want to make a run.”

Mona Shores enters the post season with a 14-11 overall record and a No. 1 seed. That means they earned a bye in round one of the Division 1 regional tournament.

The Sailors will face the winner of Jenison and Holland West Ottawa at Patterson Ice Arena on Feb. 27. 

While emotions were running high on Senior Night, Coach Benedict had to remind his team there’s still a long way to go this season.

“It’s all still surreal for them right now because we are not done,” Benedict said. “They get told it’s their last game on home ice and obviously they want to win every game, but it’ll sink in once we hit the road for the playoffs. Once the run comes to an end, wherever we are at, it’ll sink in more. Right now, we’re just trying to play the game the right way and rack up wins.”

Mona Shores’ Ethan Ring gets ready to wrist a shot. Photo/Eric Sturr


Mona Shores’ No. 3 Noah Lepzinski gets in front of a shot on defense. Photo/Eric Sturr

Brayton Conrad weaves his way through the Rockford defense. Photo/Eric Sturr

Trent Benedict (blue shirt) watches Friday’s game with fellow teammate from up above at Lakeshore Sports Centre.

Coach Chris Benedict follows his son Trent off the ice after their team captured the last regular season home game.