Even Strength: Twin Goalies

Texas Twins Share Time Between The Pipes And A Bright Future In The Game

 

To understand the dynamics of the twin goalies in the Williams family, it may be best to begin by combining the first names of Evan and Ethan.

By one stretch of the imagination, that comes out as “Even.”

And that helps answer the first of the three questions posed to the boys’ parents, Chris and Marla Williams of the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb of Coppell, Texas.

•    Is one of them better than the other?
•    How do you afford two complete sets of goalie gear?
•    They’re both goalies, really?

That last inquiry is usually expressed more in the form of a statement, especially after learning that Evan and Ethan have always played on the same team, which creates a situation where there is only room for one son at a time in the net.

The Williamses have made it work for seven years with the Dallas Penguins program, including a strong performance in the 2015 Toyota-USA Hockey Tier II 14 & Under National Championship in Kearns, Utah.

The goalies returned to the Utah Olympic Oval in May for the Rocky Mountain District Player Development Camp, competing among other players born in 2000. They made a good impression, although no separation was made between Ethan and Evan as neither advanced to the national camp.

Their parents would have been interested to see how they handled the case of one being chosen over the other, but it didn’t happen.

Even, remember?

Penguins’ coach Ryan Pfeiffer describes them as “identical in so many ways.” They look so much alike, though, that a mystery is often solved when other players realize there are actually two of them.

Teammates just call each of them “Goalie” to make it easier. Pfeiffer himself was stunned by his discovery in a hotel elevator during Nationals when he realized his could distinguish one goalie by his hairline, declaring, “Ethan!”

Their styles are different; Ethan is the more technical player while Evan is more instinctive.

Former professional netminder Billy Pye, a goalie coach in the Metroplex, has worked with both of them for several years. For a long time, Pye said, there was a noticeable distinction between their abilities, with the edge going to Ethan. But Evan’s recent improvement has made them about even again.

And they’ve both come a long way since the days when it seemed “almost like they were scared of the puck,” Pye recalled. “Just this past hockey season, they’ve matured. They have a presence now. They work hard. They’re dedicated. It shows in their play.”

Pye usually can identify top prospects early in the process, but the twins have made a teenage surge that now positions them as potential AAA players. They’ve also grown seven inches in the past year, topping 5-foot-10.

Another striking similarity is that they’re both outstanding students and extraordinary teenagers.

“They’re too smart for 14-year-olds and too smart to be goalies,” Pye said, half-kidding.

Having completed eighth grade at Coppell Middle School, the boys chose to enroll in New Tech @ Coppell, an innovative high school with project-based learning.

Interviewing them is like talking to college hockey players. Ethan is said to be more sociable than Evan, but they both come across as mature and thoughtful. That’s helped them deal with the challenges that come with playing the most demanding position in team sports.

The boys have always loved hockey, starting when they were not quite a year old and their parents would take them to Dallas Stars games. Fans in neighboring seats marveled at how the infants actually watched the game. They both always wanted to play goalie although their parents made sure they learned to skate ­— and the brothers’ trend of sticking together was established as Squirts when a team needed two goalies.

That meant two sets of goalie gear. To keep the costs down, Marla buys in bulk. And she’s a good negotiator.

After playing together for most of their lives, Evan and Ethan Williams are preparing to play for different teams this season.After playing together for most of their lives, Evan and Ethan Williams are preparing to play for different teams this season.

As for shared playing time, Marla laughs when she hears other parents complain about their sons’ opportunities, because one of her boys is always on the bench. Then again, one of them is always playing, and they further developed their games in 2014-15, thanks to an extensive schedule.

The Penguins Bantam Major AA team went 49-13-1-1, including the Dallas Stars Travel League, tournaments in Phoenix, Chicago and Nashville, state and national playoffs and scrimmages. Ethan posted a 27-10-0-0 record with a 2.01 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage in 1,590 minutes played. Evan was 22-3-1-1 with a 1.42 GAA and a .920 save percentage in 1,287 minutes.

In the national tournament, they teamed up for three shutouts in pool play (Ethan played two full games, Evan one) and their combined 1.51 GAA was the best in the 2A division, as the Penguins reached the semifinals.

Pfeiffer labeled the goalies “the backbone of it all,” noting how they became more intense and aggressive by challenging opposing shooters. They also challenge one another, saying things they wouldn’t say to other teammates.

“We’re harder on each other,” Evan said, “but we understand why we’re harder.”

“We want the best for each other,” Ethan added.

That applied to the District camp where the twins played on different teams. They stood in front of opposite nets for about 30 minutes (running clock) of one game. Chris stood near the glass, taking photos. Marla sat calmly in the stands, making conversational responses to the action, such as “Good job, Ethan” or “Good save, Evan.”

As the Penguins’ team manager, Marla said it felt like a weekend off for her. She enjoyed watching the games without the stress of dealing with logistics or worrying about what winning would mean for the team.

The days of sharing time between the pipes will end next season as Ethan will suit up for the Dallas Stars 15U AAA team while Evan will stay in the Penguins program.

That’s when Chris and Marla will be faced with a new question, one that they haven’t had to deal with in all their years in hockey: how are they going to be in two places at once?

 

 

 

Kurt Kragthorpe is the senior columnist for the Salt Lake Tribune.

 

 

Photos By Glenn James; Chris Williams
Issue: 
2015-08

Poll

Who is your favorite American player?: