There was one second left in last week’s game when Tri-City Americans forward Brian Williams threw down his gloves and got in the face of Lethbridge’s Daniel Johnston.
Maybe not the face. More like the chest. At 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds, Williams didn’t quite match up to the 6-2, 210-pound Johnston, but that didn’t stop Williams from trying to make a point.
“I’ve always played that way,” Williams said. “That’s how I was taught. After the game, someone gave me his height and weight. At the time, I didn’t care. After getting cross-checked all night, I thought, ‘Why not?’ Not a lot of thought went into it at the time.”
Williams, 17, said he can get mad pretty easily, but that just adds to his passion for the game and the safety of his teammates. It was a quality Americans general manager Bob Tory liked when he saw Williams play at a younger level.
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“He was a tremendous worker,” Tory said. “His work ethic and his speed reminded me of Johnny Lazo -- with a little more speed. I thought, ‘To be able to recruit him would be a great asset for us.’ ”
So, Tory used an eighth-round pick in the 2010 Western Hockey League bantam draft to take the spirited player from Claremont, Calif.
As a rookie last season, Williams had eight goals, 15 assists and 33 penalty minutes. Fifteen of those minutes were the result of three fighting majors. Williams held his own in all three bouts.
“It is what it is,” Williams said. “Cheap shots are hard to let go. When you respond, it sends a message.”
There are times, though, when Williams finds himself on his backside, and he’s fine with it. One of those moments came during the Americans’ game against Victoria on Saturday.
“I was crossing the blue line, and the next thing I know, my head’s glued to the ice,” Williams said. “I don’t mind a good clean hit. I want to make it look like it didn’t hurt, but it does.”
Williams has gotten off to a strong start this season, scoring three goals with one assist in seven games.
Williams admitted he didn’t see his goal against Victoria. He was on the bench after a line change when the Royals pulled their goalie on a delayed penalty and put the puck in their own net. Because he was the last Tri-City player to touch the puck, he got credit for the goal.
“I was catching my air and not even watching,” Williams said. “I just remember getting off the ice really tired. I had to ask Parker (Bowles) what happened. I didn’t even see what happened. All of my goals have been pretty fortunate. The bounces have been going my way.”
Luck might have a part in it, but Tory said Williams’ game has progressed since the start of last season.
“Sometimes we put too much pressure on their numbers at a young age,” Tory said. “I think Brian will be a big-time player, but this is a tough league to have immediate success. He is on the cusp. This is an exciting time for his career.”
CHL poll: The WHL had three teams in the CHL poll this week, with the Kamloops Blazers topping the list at No. 3. The Portland Winterhawks came in at No. 8 and the Edmonton Oil Kings at No. 9. The Quebec Remparts (7-1-0-0) retained their No. 1 ranking.
Cutdown draft: The Everett Silvertips selected overage D Connor Cox (Saskatoon) and released overage F Cody Fowlie. Fowlie, D Austin Bourhis (Moose Jaw), F Andrew Rieder (Regina) and D John Neibrandt (Vancouver) are free agents after Thursday’s cutdown draft.
Trade: The Kelowna Rockets traded F Austin Ferguson, 17, to the Red Deer Rebels for a conditional sixth-round draft pick.
w Annie Fowler: 582-1574; email@example.com