Hard work pays off in the end

by Sam Brouwere

Sports Reporter

Canisius senior goaltender Charles Williams wasn’t always the star player that he is today, he had to take a long journey to get to where he is.

 

Williams grew up in Canton, Mich., just 30 miles west of Detroit. This is where he learned to play the game of hockey and developed a passion for the sport that he loves so much.

 

At 17-years-old, Williams started his junior hockey career by playing for the Des Moines Buccaneers of the United States Hockey League (USHL) for the 2009-10 season. This was also the first year that the Buccaneers played in the West Division, which was considered “the superior division”, so that was already shaping up to be a difficult task for his team. Williams was able to manage to get eight wins on the season for the Buccaneers, who ended the season in seventh place. He spent majority of the season as the backup, but he didn’t let the role discourage him.

 

The next season, Williams was no longer a backup, earning an opportunity to be a starting goalie. He was on a new team, the Owatonna Express of the North American Hockey League (NAHL). While a member of the Express for the 2010-11 season, he had a record of 27-10-6, while registering a .921 save percentage. The Express were able to reach the divisional semifinals in the NAHL’s playoffs, as Williams played a big part in getting Owatonna to that point.

 

Williams then continued his success into the next season. He was, again, on another team, this time with the Lincoln Stars of the USHL. He had a record of 20-4-3 on the season, earning a 2.61 goals against average, and a .907 save percentage. His four losses were the fewest among USHL goaltenders that appeared in at least 25 games that season. He also had four shutouts on the season, which was tied for third in the league. He led the Stars to the USHL’s Western Conference Finals, which can be considered a big accomplishment for him because he was able to put his team on his back and get them that far.

 

He then chose to go to Ferris State University beginning in the 2012-13 season. Williams was once again a backup, something that he hadn’t experienced in over two years. He was the backup to sophomore C.J. Motte, a Hobey Baker Award finalist.

 

Williams didn’t play much in the 2013-14 season, as he continued to backup Motte. He played in five games, starting in three. He made 94 saves on the season, improving from 55 in the season prior.

 

The next season, Williams injured his Achilles tendon, causing a major setback in his hockey career, resulting in him missing the entire season.

 

Last year, Williams was expected to take on a bigger role because Motte had graduated the season prior. However, Williams wasn’t able to secure the starting role for the entire season because of him sharing time with the other goalies Ferris State had. Williams appeared in 11 games, starting 10 of them.

 

At Ferris State, Williams was never really able to hold down the starting goalie position, as he had some things that prevented him from doing so: he played behind a star goalie, an injury, and play related.

 

“It taught me how to keep pushing,” Williams said about his time at Ferris State. “Times can get tough, it’s a bunch of ups and downs during the season, but it teaches you how to stay humble and know that your time is coming; keep putting in the work and the results will come. Overall, it taught me patience and how to be humble.”

 

Following his graduation from Ferris State, he had one year of eligibility left to play hockey. Canisius assistant coach Trevor Large played an instrumental role in getting Charles to come play for the Griffs. Large played collegiately at Ferris State from 2000-2004, so he still had very good connections with Ferris State, who alerted him that Williams had one more year left.

 

At the beginning of this season, Williams is in a completely new environment as the 24-year-old was an unknown player coming into the season. Canisius had three other goalies on their roster, leaving him to be a complete unknown. He made his first start for Canisius on Oct. 8, on the road against the North Dakota Fighting Hawks, who were ranked number one in the nation at the time. He did end up losing the game, but he was able to keep the game fairly close before the Griffs lost, 4-1. A week later, he got the start against the Alaska Nanooks. Williams was no longer unknown after this game, as he led the team to a 2-1 victory. Upon earning the victory, he was no longer a backup assuming the role as the team’s starter.

 

Since taking over the reigns as the team’s starting goalie, Williams has a record of 8-6-3 on the season and has a goals against average of 2.06. The Atlantic Hockey Conference has also named him Goalie of the Week five times, including in the past two weeks. He was also named Goaltender of the Month by the conference for his efforts in November.

 

“It’s been great,” Canisius head coach Dave Smith said about bringing Williams into the program. “His best attribute is still his focus, his senior leadership, and his mature mindset that adds to our leadership group of seniors and captains.”

 

“Charles [Williams] has been an awesome surprise for us,” said senior defenseman Geoff Fortman, about Williams’ success this season. “You hope that you can get freshmen to come in and build confidence and get better as their career goes on. But, to get a guy like him, already experienced, already mature, and already playing as well as he is, has been a huge blessing for us this year. We’re finally starting to help him win games because he’s won us plenty, especially early on in the year, but to have him back there helps our confidence a ton.”

 

Williams hasn’t only given the Griffs a strong performance this season, but has also given the team an experienced leader in the locker room.

 

“He’s been a big leader. He has the experience,” Fortman said about Williams. “He’s been there and done that, but just to bring what he’s learned from four years at a different program has gone a long way. For even myself, Ryan [Schmelzer], Josh [Kielich] and some of the experienced guys on the team that the team looks to for leadership, we have experience, but it’s only here and it’s only in this conference and from what we’ve gone through.

 

“To have a guy with four years of experience outside of Canisius, it makes a big difference. He’s not a consistently vocal guy, but he’s a calm, confident, and really mature presence on our team all the time, which helps a lot.”

 

Charles Williams has experienced a lot of adversity in his playing career, but he always kept on pushing and never gave up. Because he kept working hard, he has the opportunity to try and lead his team to their first Atlantic Hockey Conference Championship since the 2012-13 season.

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