To be successful in the playoffs, goalies have to make the big saves, top scorers have to produce, and the supporting cast has to step up their game.
The Tri-City Americans have gotten all of the above in their Western Conference semifinal series against the Spokane Chiefs, with rookie Brian Williams playing a key role for Americans, who lead the best-of-7 series 2-1 heading into Game 4 tonight at Spokane Arena.
"I thought he was among everybody, the guy who had a great game," Tri-City coach Jim Hiller said of Wednesday's 2-1 win over Spokane. "As a 16-year-old, I thought he was outstanding. If we can see this young guy continue like that he will be a special player."
Williams isn't lighting the lamp like Brendan Shinnimin or Adam Hughesman. He's the guy who makes life rough for the other team's top players.
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"He's been good throughout the series," Hiller said. "But (Wednesday) from the first shift, Beats (assistant coach Scott Beattie) and I were talking. The way he was moving, he is a dangerous player with his speed. He is a special player at 16 making the kind of contributions he has."
Williams said he knows he's fortunate to skate a regular shift, and that he just wants to do his part.
"There are so many examples on our team to watch," Williams said. "Holly (Patrick Holland), all the 100-points guys, just watching them play, it makes me want to play better. I think it brings the best out of me."
And Wednesday's game?
"I'm going to blame it on the beds in our hotel," Williams said. "I slept so good (Tuesday night) and had a good nap before the game. I think that gave me a little bit of an edge."
At 5-foot-7 and 160 pounds, Williams has been fearless all season. He has no problem disrupting the game of Spokane's 6-2, 210-pound Darren Kramer, or picking the pockets of the Chiefs' top scorers.
"You treat it like a job," Williams said matching up against Kramer. "It sucks sometimes, but you have to do it. It's kind of funny. They just chase you around and I skate away from them and egg them on. I love that and they hate that even more."
Williams' work ethic has drawn praise not only from Hiller, but Shinnimin as well.
"Brian doesn't have a lot of experience, but he's been outstanding for us," Shinnimin said. "He's working hard for a young guy and doing well on that second line. It's good to see those guys chipping in."
The way the Chiefs have been swarming around Shinnimin, the Americans need guys like Williams to make a difference.
"Every whistle, at least three guys come after me," Shinnimin said. "Let them do that, it's fine. It's just taking away from their game, it doesn't bother me. They can't get me off my game. Let them do that and get away from their game. I'm just going to focus on doing what I do and continue to work hard."
Spokane, which won the first game of the series, has lost two in a row to the Americans.
"It's a series, and obviously there are turning points in a series, "Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. "I'm not sure if this was a turning point, but we have to look the next game, we have regroup and we have to play better. That said, we know Tri is not playing as many guys as we are right now. We just have to keep doing our part. Give Tri credit, they exploit you in areas of turnovers and mistakes and they did that (Wednesday)."
The Americans have a chance to take a 3-1 lead over Spokane with a win tonight, but Shinnimin said it won't be an easy task.
"Spokane is great team and Donnie is a great coach," Shinnimin said after Wednesday's game. "They are in there right now, getting undressed and forgetting this one and getting ready for Friday. You can't linger on these games, especially in the playoffs. You just have to put it behind you. We will do the same thing. We got this win, but it will be another tough, hard battle on Friday. Both teams are going to come out firing, we have to be ready to go. We know they will. It will be a great game."