By Bethany Drysdale
Las Vegas local Eric Williams is on pace for a career high season for UNLV this year. The 6 foot, 205 pound defenseman has played in 19 games this year for the Rebels, scoring 4 goals, with 8 assists. After wrapping up a four game road trip to Arizona, Williams sat down with me to talk about his hockey career. Learning to skate at age 6, he loved to be out on the ice and chose hockey over baseball early on in his development. Eric is a sophomore, undeclared major at UNLV, with aspirations of being a commercial airline pilot. The skill and dedication it takes to become a pilot is well within Eric’s reach, just as he shows his dedication to hockey.
The team is connecting at the right time and making the best of the opportunities coming into 2019. Eric is a key player, helping the Rebels to jump to #8 this week after their successful road trip. Scoring a goal and contributing 2 assists, I asked Eric what kept them going playing four games in five days. He said, “Everyone, stepped up to contribute. When someone got down, another guy would make a play and kept the team focused. There isn’t just 1 big playmaker on the team; it is a collective effort when we win games.” Watching the games, it was easy to see how well the guys get along.
Being a local, I asked Eric what he thought about the growing hockey community in Las Vegas. He said, “It’s great to see the kids out there learning to skate. Hockey in Las Vegas has always been a tight knit group, and the Golden Knights brought more attention to our sport. The UNLV games pack City National and it’s humbling to see the support we get at home games.”
When asked what team or line has been his favorite during his career, Eric was quick to say he feels bonded to this year’s UNLV team.
“We have a goal in mind each time we get out on the ice. We want to grow the program to the next level. Everyone understands that each game builds a positive foundation for the future.” Playing against ranked ACHA Division 1 teams is what brings out the best in Eric and the Rebel team. To be the best, you have to play the best. Minot State, University of Arizona, and Arizona State will almost certainly be part of the championship tournament.
When asked what player or coach influenced his game the most, Eric said, “Hockey Hall of Famer Joe Sakic.” Joe’s rapid snap-shot release is legendary and one big reason why he twice scored 50 goals in a season. For young kids, emulating their favorite players is often behind the drive and motivation to keep getting better. I asked Eric if he realized the example he was setting for the kids of Las Vegas who watch him play now. He said, “I love that kids in Vegas can have hometown players that they can look up to. Guys like Zucker and Quinney are great to watch.” I reminded him that for my two boys, he is one of those hometown heroes.
Come see the Rebels this weekend at City National, 7:30 against the Utah Utes.