Graduating senior Eric Williams grew up attending every hockey game he could get to, including all of the UNLV games. Little did he know, 10 years later he would be stepping on the ice as a Rebel.
After taking a three-year gap period to play junior hockey before attending college, Williams is graduating in May with a 3.8 GPA with a degree in economics and a goal of becoming a pilot.
"I always had a passion for hockey growing up, but I think once you got to the age where it was actually competitive, that's when you realize you want to do it or not,” Williams said. “I’ve always known it was something I wanted to do.”
During the three-year gap, Williams documented 16 goals, 41 assists, and 57 total points.
His freshman year of college, he attended Chatham University in Pennsylvania where he played in 23 games and recorded one assist for the season.
Williams transferred back to his hometown in 2018 to help lead the Rebels to new heights. He appeared in 33 games for UNLV in his homecoming season, recording six goals and 13 assists for a total of 19 points. He also played in two playoff games, notching one assist.
"Growing up competitively, I didn't really get to play in front of friends or family a whole lot. Now they have that opportunity. It's really nice,” Williams said. “They sacrifice a lot for me. So being able to play here now, it's a lot easier for them to come to games and see a lot of it that they might not have been able to in the past.”
The current assistant captain led all defensemen in scoring during each of the last two seasons. During that span, no player has appeared in more games for the Skatin’ Rebels. His junior year, Williams stacked up 23 points with seven goals and 16 assists.
The season was cut short due to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to the cancelation of his final season as a Rebel. The program looked into every safe option to hold onto a shortened season for the team, but were unable to come up with a realistic strategy.
"It happened all of a sudden. This year coming in, we knew we weren’t going to start until January the earliest, but we were still hoping we’d get half a season,” Williams said. “It just kept getting pushed back further and further. It sucks, but it’s the reality of it. It sucks as a senior, but we still made a memorable time here as Rebels so it is what it is.”
UNLV Rebel Hockey honored their seniors on April 23 with a short ceremony followed by an inter-squad scrimmage to get the team on the ice together one final time. Williams scored a hat-trick for his final three goals of his Rebel hockey career.
Even though he played for 16 years before attending UNLV, the Rebel hockey team managed to teach him everything he needed to know to be an impressive player on the ice and an even better person away from the rink.
"I've had more of an offensive mindset than I have in the past. Just building more confidence in playing with a lot more players- you can trust that if you mess up, they'll be there to bail you out,” Williams said. “I think it's been a confidence boost to play with those kinds of guys. It's just been nice to play for a team that there's not really a weakness anywhere.”
Williams made a mark on the program that will not be forgotten as he leaves in May to pursue his dreams of becoming a pilot. Williams played three memorable years at UNLV, and will always consider the team a second family.