Edina goaltender Willie Benjamin notched the third shutout of his career on Friday against Wayzata. Photo by Katherine Matthews
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior can hardly be described as flamboyant. In his personality or style of play. You won’t see a lot of somersaults or splits or backflips out of this kid. He plays the angles, stops the puck, then controls the rebound.
Always thinking one step ahead, Benjamin could just as easily be a pool player.
“I think he plays smart,” Edina senior Bo Brauer said. “He kicked the net off once, that was a good move by him.”
The shutout was the third of Benjamin’s career. He posted two in 25 starts last season. Not that he is paying attention.
“I feel like if I look at the stats, I get too caught up in it,” said Benjamin, who has a .947 save percentage and 1.00 goals-against average in two starts. “I just try to watch the puck and see what happens from there. I can only do what I can do.”
Benjamin’s work is made considerably by the presence of a titanium-strength defense led by seniors Matt Nelson and Parker Reno. Those two, along with forward Dylan Malmquist, were the primary penalty killers during Wayzata’s two-man advantage.
The Edina forwards did their share, too. Much of the first and third periods were played in the Wayzata end, giving Benjamin plenty of time to brush up on his trigonometry, if he were so inclined.
Benjamin, who posted a .910 save percentage and .239 goals-against average last season, played in the Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League this fall. He helped Team Southwest with the league’s regular season title.
Giles said that Benjamin has benefitted from Hornets goaltending coach Don Beaupre, a former NHLer who like Giles played for the Minnesota North Stars.
“Donny has done a really nice job with him,” Giles said. “Some of the fundamental stuff and some of the real basic stuff.
“Donny is a calming effect, too. Donny is real calm, he never gets excited. He just doesn’t panic. He’s got everything under control and that’s the way his personality is. It does wonders for them.”