Mike Williamson is not one to bring attention to himself, but even he couldn’t help feeling a sense of pride when he picked up his 500th win in the Western Hockey League.
The Tri-City Americans’ coach reached the milestone Sunday when his team topped the Vancouver Giants 5-4 on the road.
“I was relieved,” Williamson said. “I didn’t want it to linger too long. It’s an individual thing. I’m just more focused on our team right now.”
Williamson, 43, also coached at Portland (217 wins) and Calgary (210 wins) before he joined the Americans. He is the seventh member of the WHL’s 500 club along with Ken Hodge, Lorne Molleken, Don Hay, Ernie McLean, Pat Ginnell and Don Nachbaur. Hay and Nachbaur also have coached the Americans.
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“It makes you feel old, I guess,” Williamson said. “Ken and Brent Peterson brought me on when I finished playing. I started right away. When you can’t skate well, your options are limited.”
Williamson, a defenseman, played two seasons under Hodge in Portland (1991-93). After his playing days were over, Williamson stepped in as an assistant with the Winterhawks. He took over the head-coaching job in Portland toward the end of the 1999-00 season, when Harold Snepsts was relieved of his duties.
Williamson was named the 20th coach of the Americans in May 2014, replacing Jim Hiller.
In two-plus seasons with Tri-City, Williamson has 74 wins, including Tuesday’s 4-3 road victory over Portland.
The Americans (8-5-1-0, 17 points), who will make the final stop of their six-game trip Thursday at Everett, have points in their past three games. They have gone 3-1-1-0 on their trek, which includes a pair of wins over the Winterhawks.
“This is a tough stretch with a lot of games and a lot of travel,” Williamson said. “We wanted to make sure we gave ourselves a chance to get points every night. We didn’t play our best in a couple of games, but we managed to get a point against Kamloops. They have found a way to stay in games. They did a good job in Vancouver and in Portland. The first game in Portland (a 7-3 loss Sept. 25), we didn’t fare well. They have done a good job in finding ways to win.”
After traveling to Everett on Tuesday night after the Portland game, Williamson gave his players a break Wednesday. They went to a movie and had a relaxing day. They will need their energy against the U.S. Division-leading Silvertips (9-2-2-0, 20 points), who were ranked sixth in this week’s CHL poll.
“We’ve played well against Everett,” said Williamson, whose team is 2-1 against the Silvertips this season. “We have to make sure we have a good start, especially on the road when fatigue could be a factor. You can’t give them any momentum. Their style is unique, and you have to counter that. We won in here last time (4-1 on Oct. 7). We want to use that as a confidence builder. If you lose your patience, that’s when they take advantage.”
The Americans will be without Max James for the third consecutive game. The bruising forward, who has five goals in 10 games, suffered a lower-body injury at Kamloops on Saturday.
Tri-City will return home for a game against Victoria on Friday, then will have an entire week off.
“It will be a much-needed break,” Williamson said.