Goalies like to see shots. OK, maybe not quite as many as Charles Williams has been facing.
The netminder for the Canisius College Golden Griffins has faced 269 shots, the fifth-most in the nation.
But he keeps stopping them. Two hundred and fifty four of them to be exact. That gives him the fourth-best save percentage in Division I hockey (.944) while his goals against is 2.11. He has one shutout and has backstopped the Griffs to a 3-0-1 start in Atlantic Hockey.
Last weekend he gave up one goal while facing 85 shots as the Griffs swept RIT, the preseason favorite to win the conference.
"It doesn’t feel as though he’s been stealing games but he’s been the No. 1 star in those games," said Canisius coach Dave Smith.
Stealing games may be hyperbole. Smith likes to point out that shot totals kept at visiting rinks are often inflated.
"Teams are shooting a lot of pucks on the net. In some cases in visiting buildings the shot charts are not necessarily accurate," Smith said. "All those things being said, we would like to give up less shots. The Grade-A chances are what we as coaches measure, not the shots from outside, and the number of Grade-A chances that we’ve been giving up is very realistic. It's not as high as the shot total would indicate."
And regardless of the count, Williams has been a beneficiary of good defense by his teammates.
"Every game teams are going to have scoring chances but our team does a great job of making sure they're all perimeter shots for the most part so I’m able to track it," Williams said. "They do a really good job of getting bodies out of the way, clearing sticks, making it very easy for me."
Williams has unique stature as a fifth-year transfer senior. His first four years were spent at Ferris State, where he was granted a medical redshirt his junior season. He played mostly as a backup for the Bulldogs, and after getting his undergraduate degree decided his hockey story wasn’t finished.
"Honestly I just wanted another opportunity," said Williams, who is working toward his master's degree in sports administration. "I graduated from Ferris and that led me to say, 'Hey what’s next.' So I flipped that page in my chapter and looked for any opportunity."
Canisius assistant coach Trevor Large played at Ferris State, and his relationship with the coaching staff there led the Griffs to look at Williams for the experience he could bring a team with just two seniors and the stability he could lend to the net as the team grooms a sophomore and two freshmen in that position.
"We had a real good idea about the person Charles is and that person we felt could add to our culture," Smith said. "His work ethic, commitment, good student, good person, and he would be our third senior. We knew what we were getting from the off-ice perspective. The on-ice perspective, the coaches at Ferris State really felt he was a good goalie who had just been beaten out by other good goalies and suffered from a little bit of poor timing. Put that all into one little bowl -- great kid, really good goalie, looking for an opportunity. That's how it happened."
While he’s stopping pucks during games, he’s also helping shape the culture in the locker room, particularly among the goaltending crew.
Sophomore Simon Hofley is put in a more comfortable position with the weight of carrying the starting job off his shoulders. Freshmen Daniel Urbani and Blake Weyrick have the opportunity to learn the work ethic at the collegiate level through competition in practice. And the four have been able to feed off each other in the unique way that goalies have.
"We have a great relationship, all four of us," Williams said. "Every time I go to the rink I know I have my best buddies there to talk goalie with. We all sit next to each other in the locker room and talk goalie stuff. We're kind of in our own bubble sometimes but it’s definitely fun and it’s a good experience."