For Langley's Eric Williams, this Sunday will mark a home-coming of sorts.
The Spokane Chiefs goaltender is making a trip to the Pacific Coliseum, where the Chiefs will visit the Vancouver Giants in a Western Hockey League regular season match-up.
Game time is 4 p.m. Whether he gets the start or not is the coach's decision, Williams said.
"It would be nice with friends and family there," he said, "but [I'll do] whatever is best for the team, and [whoever] the coach feels gives us best chance to win."
Williams was one of the architects of the Giants' demise during the 2012 WHL playoffs.
He entered the net midway through the second period of game two of the Spokane/ Vancouver opening-round series, and he never left. Williams proceeded to backstop the Chiefs to victory in games three through six to eliminate the Giants from the post-season.
The Chiefs ended up going the full seven games against the Tri City Americans in the WHL Western Conference semifinal series. Williams played all seven of those con-tests.
Despite 45 saves by Williams, the Chiefs fell 3-2 to the Americans in the seventh and deciding game of the series.
"It was fun," said Williams, looking back at last year's playoff run. "It was a good opportunity."
Williams was acquired from the Prince Albert Raiders last December. He said he struggled, along with his former team, prior to the deal.
The 6'1" 160 pound goaltender recorded an 8-15-3 record and 3.86 goals against average with Prince Albert during the latter part of 2011.
The Raiders ended up last in the WHL's Eastern Conference, with a 21-45-3-3 mark.
As a Chief, Williams went 86-3 in 18 regular season appearances.
Williams was in fine form during the post-season, finishing with the league's third best goals against average at 2.22. He won his first five playoff starts with a .927 post season save percentage.
Williams described the trade as a "blessing in disguise."
"I struggled a fair bit last year with consistency," he said. "I had an up and down year. [The Raiders] struggled as a team and it carried over into my game and I ended up getting traded to Spokane, where I was playing in bigger games for a playoff team, and in a more watched market."
In 86 career regular season appearances, Williams has 33 wins heading into this campaign.
He spent his first season (2010/11) in the WHL with Prince Albert, and made 29 saves in a 4-0 shutout win over Calgary on Feb. 15, 2011 for the first clean sheet of his major junior career.
Williams finished his rookie year with a 17-17-1-1 record, and collected the third most wins by a rookie goaltender in the WHL.
He was Prince Albert's fourth round selection in the 2008 WHL bantam draft.
Starting off, Williams spent 10 years backstopping Langley Minor Hockey Association teams, mostly at the 'AAA' rep level. He played his final year of bantam for head coach Danny Franco.
Williams went on to play a season of major midget hockey with the Vancouver Northwest Giants, and helped them capture the B.C. title.
Then, as a 16-year-old, he played one year of junior B hockey with the Ridge Meadows Flames, and was named team MVP.
Williams made the switch to goaltender at a young age.
"I chose it [goalie]," Williams recalled. "I couldn't score, and in initiation I hit 17 posts in my last season and had one goal."
Being the last line of defence comes with a large dose of pressure. Williams welcomes it.
"The pressure brings out the most in most athletes," Williams said. "There's five other guys on the ice but if the puck goes in, it's your mistake that gets noticed. It's a fun place to be, having the pressure on you."
- With files from www.spokanechiefs.com
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