The Fort Benning ice hockey team came up short Saturday against the Columbus Cottonmouths Legends, losing 5-3, but dominated the Camp Lejeune Marines 12-4 on Sunday.
While Brian Kee, Fort Benning’s team captain, said the game against the Legends was more for fun, the battle against the Marines saw several fights and scuffles throughout the contest. Fort Benning committed 13 penalties and the Marines committed 10.
Going into the weekend, Kee said everything else was insignificant compared to beating the Marines.
Fort Benning demonstrated the significance of the game as it scored seven goals in the first period.
“There was a ton of emotion coming into the game,” Kee said. “We were definitely the better team. We played our game and it showed — being up 7-0 at the end of one.”
Fort Benning forward and former Cottonmouth Ken Porter had two goals, one unassisted, and three assists. Kee also had two goals, as did forward Mark May.
The Marines never quit, though, and took advantage of several breakdowns by Fort Benning on defense. The Fort Benning attack, however, was too much for the Marines as the forwards got looks early and often. Fort Benning had 30 shots on goal compared to 17 for the Marines. \Fort Benning was coached by Cottonmouths coach Jerome Bechard. Bechard said coaching the team turned out to be a unique experience for him.
“I’ve done a lot of things and this has been a really good highlight in terms of things I’ve never done before,” he said.
“They were in it to win it right from the go. They soaked up everything I told them. Overall, I think they dominated and played very well.”
While Bechard coached Fort Benning against the Marines, he played against them Saturday in the Legends game, which preceded the Cottonmouths’ matchup against the Mississippi Surge.
Porter met Bechard at center ice for the opening faceoff. Bechard signed Porter to play for the Cottonmouths to fill in for injured players in December and January.
“When we were facing off, he told me, ‘dollar per faceoff,’” Porter said. “I think I’ve got two dollars coming my way.”
Porter won the faceoff, but the Legends jumped out to an early 2-0 lead within the first 6 minutes.
Two goals from Zachary Morris and a goal from May made sure the game didn’t get out of hand.
“We started out just trying a little too hard,” Kee said. “We got a little nervous playing in front of that many people. We just had to settle down and get into our rhythm.
“Their skills are a lot better than ours. They’re a lot smoother. They can make plays a lot easier than we can. They definitely used that to their advantage. They may not be as fast, but they made the most of their chances. We gave them a game and, most importantly, we enjoyed it.”
Trailing 5-2, May scored the last goal for Fort Benning with 10 seconds left in the game.
Before this year, Bechard said the Legends would be split into two teams and play each other.
“I think (Fort Benning) fared well,” he said. “They got two or three really good shots and they buried a couple on us. It was fun going against somebody else and have a little different competition.”
Kee said plans are already in the works with Fort Benning Sports, Fitness and Aquatics to schedule more games this year.
“Hopefully it keeps going,” Kee said. “Hopefully we’ll get the support of the post and keep this team running for a lot of years.”