Colts win one for coach as Williamson now winningest coach in franchise history
Surpasses late Dale Hawerchuk with 306 victory
Fresh off a change into new clothes after getting a cooler of water dumped on him by his players in the dressing room Saturday night at Sadlon Arena, Marty Williamson laughed when asked about his introductory press conference as head coach of the Barrie Colts back in 2004.
Then majority owner Mark Stubbs, looking to create some excitement, boasted how the new-look Colts would sway from their defensive style and look to win games 7-6 and 8-7, instead of 2-1.
Williamson didn’t let a second pass before he made it clear how he was more than happy to keep winning those 2-1 games.
“I’ve always kind of leaned to defensive hockey. I just believe it wins you championships,” said Williamson after his team limited the Oshawa Generals to just 19 shots in a 6-3 victory that made him the franchise’s all-time winningest head coach.
“I remember my first practice,” he said. “Being on the ice with Bryan Little, Hunter Tremblay and I remember (then GM) Mike McCann coming to me saying Hunter is debating about whether he’s even going to come back. BJ Crombeen was our captain that year. That was a fantastic year.”
Saturday’s win was No. 306 for Williamson, surpassing the prior mark held by the late Dale Hawerchuk who coached the Colts from 2010-19.
“It means a lot,” said Williamson, who received an on-ice salute from his players as he walked between them at the end of the contest. “I really think it’s a privilege that I get to stand behind that bench and be part of their dreams as they sit on that bench in front of me. Dale and I were similar in that way in that we were really passionate about coaching for this organization.
“I feel he’s on my shoulder now on how he really wanted me to do this and how he wanted me to come back and I can’t be happier that I’ve done it.”
Tyler Savard has only played for Williamson since early January when he was acquired from Sault Ste. Marie at the trade deadline, but it hasn’t take him long to see why he’s been so successful behind the bench in the OHL.
He and his teammates wanted this one for their coach.
“Definitely, it’s a huge milestone for Marty with 306 wins,” said the winger, who scored twice in Saturday’s win. “It’s definitely nice to have a coach behind the bench that cares about every single one of his players. I think at the end of the day we’ll go that extra mile for Marty in that sense.”
Savard knows he’s a better player because of Williamson.
“It’s taken me a bit to get settled in here in Barrie and obviously get hurt a little bit into my stint here, but Marty has definitely helped me find my game and stay consistent with things,” he said. “I don’t give him enough credit, for sure.”
Now on his second stint with Barrie, it’s been quite the journey for Williamson since that first win in Belleville back on Sept. 25, 2004.
In his eighth season behind the bench with the Colts, the Markham native has won two Central Division titles, coached a franchise best 57 wins in the 2009-10 season and that same year led them to a Bobby Orr Trophy as the Eastern Conference champions and a berth in the OHL finals against Windsor.
“It’s been a great run,” said Williamson, who also spent six seasons as coach of the Niagara IceDogs and is one of only nine coaches in OHL history with 500 wins. “We’ve had some wonderful teams and it seems like pieces from every year I’ve enjoyed. Yeah, it’s not always championships and divisions and stuff like that, but, just like this group, I told them I love this hockey team.
“They’re a great group of guys, we’re getting better and hopefully good things could come for us in the playoffs.”
Williamson wasn’t the only Colt chasing a milestone in Saturday’s win. Brandt Clark had two assists and tied Luch Nasato’s franchise scoring record among defencemen with 134 points (28-106-134) in less than three seasons.
Clarke can set the record Sunday afternoon when the Colts hit the road to take on the IceDogs.
Ethan Cardwell, with a pair, Evan Vierling and Beau Jelsma also scored for Barrie (33-15-6-2), which won its third straight and moved to within three points of the North Bay Battalion atop the Central Division standings.
Calum Ritchie, Ryan Gagnier and David Bedkowski found the back of the net for Oshawa (23-26-1-5), which holds a one point lead over Kingston for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Colts held the Generals to just four shots in a dominate second period where blew open a 1-1 game to grab a 5-2 lead.
“There’s just different ways we can score, so we just need to do the best we can in front of (Anson) Thornton and (Ben) West and play real strong in front of them,” said Williamson.
The line of Declan McDonnell, Savard and Jelsma was buzzing all night.
“We jelled right from Day 1,” said Savard of him and his linemates. “We played together a little earlier when I was here. We all suit each other’s games. Jelsma has got the speed coming down the middle and Mac and I add sandpaper and grit to the line.
“I don’t think anyone enjoys playing against us and that’s what we want come playoff time.”
Savard nearly capped off an excellent night in the third when he made an impressive move past a defenceman, but couldn’t finish it off against General goaltender Carter Bickle.
“That third one would have felt good,” he said. “That would have been my first career hat trick, so that definitely would have felt good. But we got the two points at the end of the day, so that’s all that matters.”
The Colts will look for their fourth straight win on Sunday.
“Right back at it in Niagara,” said Williamson. “My old stomping grounds.”
Game time at the Meridian Centre is 2 p.m.
ICE CHIPS: Thornton made 16 saves to record his 23rd win. . . Barrie outshot Oshawa 36-19. . . Generals starting goalie Jacob Oster was pulled at 11:21 of the second after giving up five goals on 20 shots. Bickle stopped 15 of 16 the rest of the way. . . Vierling added two assists to his 31st goal and extended his goal-scoring streak to five games. The overager has 11 goals in his last eight games . . . Connor Punnett delivered two bone crushing open ice hits. . . McDonnell celebrated his 21st birthday on Saturday with two assists. . . Oshawa’s Beckett Sennecke had two assists to give him 47 points on the season and is now just three points behind Michael Misa for the rookie scoring lead.
Images via the Barrie Colts