Riley Williams couldn’t have dreamt the moment up any better than how it unfolded on Tuesday night. After a fantastic play in overtime of the Whaler’s Round of 16 game against Martha’s Vineyard by assistant captain Cosmo Tedeschi to settle the puck and toss it to Williams, the senior forward found himself in front of the Vineyard net with both the puck and the game on his stick.
“Pregame I just kept thinking that if we were to lose I would probably never play another hockey game again,” Williams said. “So I had to give it everything I had.”
He did a power move to the net to put himself in perfect position to slide the puck five hole on Vineyard goalie Graham Stearns. As soon as the puck went in, Williams skated over to the Nantucket crowd and leaped into the boards to join his Whaler classmates and parents to celebrate.
“I couldn’t believe the puck went in,” Williams said. “It’s definitely something I will remember for the rest of my life.”
Williams hopes that more goals are on the way today when Nantucket plays Stoneham in the Round of 8 tournament game at 3:30 p.m. But if this was indeed the last goal of Williams’ high school hockey career, it was a dagger in the heart of Nantucket’s greatest rival that spontaneously created a moment that every young Whaler hockey player dreams of one day having, but likely never experiences. It made Williams an easy choice to be recognized as Current Athlete of the Week.
During the second intermission of Tuesday’s game, Nantucket assistant coach Bob Hickman began to address his team and tell them that someone needed to step up in order for the Whalers to win and keep their season alive.
“Then he asked us who is going to step up,” Williams said. “The room went silent, so I responded ‘I’ll get one.’ Anyone in that room could have put one in the back of the net. Luckily, I was able to stuff one in, in overtime.”
The win gave the Whalers a much needed confidence boost after a deflating 3-1 loss to the Vineyard on February 16. Williams said that now that his team has won a pair of playoff games and was able to overcome the Vineyard scoring the first goal in Tuesday’s game in front of a raucous crowd, he believes they are prepared for anything.
“I think that as a team (this win) will help give us confidence,” he said. “Just knowing that we can come back from an early deficit.”
But Williams doesn’t like to talk about himself, or even the overtime goal when you ask him about his season. He likes to keep the focus on the team itself and the group of seniors that are giving each shift maximum effort to ensure that they can extend their season one more game.“Most of these seniors have all been playing together sense we were five years old,” Williams said. “We all understand that every time we step on the ice it could be our last time doing it all together. It’s a topic we try to stay away from, but I’m sure we all keep it in the back of our heads.”
Williams said that as long as he and his teammates play as a team and not as individuals on Friday, he feels confident in his team’s ability to go into Stoneham and take down the #3 seeded Spartans.
Williams said he is hoping to see a large turnout at the game. He said the turnout at the Vineyard was great, but hopes that even more Whaler fans make the trip to Stoneham despite the long day of travel to cheer this group on as the stakes become greater and greater.
He said as he skates out onto the ice this afternoon and plays every shift like it is his last, there will only be one thing on his mind and one acceptable approach to this game.
“I’ll do whatever I have to do to keep us playing,” he said.