MANKATO — When Johnny McInnis wants to take few minutes to work on his shot, he seeks out Stephon Williams.
McInnis, the Minnesota State men's hockey captain, knows that the sophomore goaltender won't give him any easy looks or soft goals. In fact, McInnis will know how well he's shooting by the way his teammate reacts if and when the puck hits the back of the net.
“He's absolutely competitive,” McInnis said. “Anytime a goal goes past him, he's not happy about it. Even in our warmups, he gets mad about it, and that's a good thing.”
An empty net does keep Williams, last season's Western Collegiate Hockey Association rookie of the year and first-team selection, a happy goalie.
"I look at it the same, whether it's in practice or a game," said Williams, who is will start the Mavericks' home-opener tonight against Connecticut. "If the puck's in the net, I take that to heart."
With hundreds of pucks being shot every day in practice, not every goalie takes that approach. Williams is not just a gamer.
“The good thing with him is that he doesn't shut it off and turn it back on, as far as his competitive nature goes,” Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said, “I never feel as a coach that I have to continually motivate him.”
Williams said he wants his teammates to want him between the pipes.
"Our whole mentality is to try to be better," he said, "to try to make each other better and to try to make each other accountable. We play out rebounds on every play, even if it's four, five shots, just like a game. I try to keep that competitive edge high."
Williams traces his competitive streak to his youth-hockey days in Fairbanks, Alaska.