Is it something in the Niagara Falls water?
Two hockey players of color on both sides of the border are rolling like the water down the Falls – playing some of the best hockey in their league and their conference.
Akil Thomas, a rookie center for the Niagara Ice Dogs of the Ontario Hockey League, enjoyed a 5-point game – 1 goal and 4 assists – en route to a Niagara 7-1 win against the North Bay Battalion on Sunday.
The performance upped the Florida-born Thomas to 21 goals and 26 assists in 58 games for the IceDogs. He’s second-leading scorer among OHL rookies, the IceDogs’s fourth-leading scorer, and the major junior hockey league’s 81st best scorer.
Thomas, 17, hails from a hockey family: His father, Khalil Thomas, was a career minor league player. His uncle, Leo Thomas, retired last year as a player for the ECHL’s Fort Wayne Comets and is an assistant coach for the Macon Mayhem of the Southern Professional Hockey League.
Akil Thomas’ dad and mother, Akilah Thomas, are owners of the Oshawa RiverKings of Canada’s Greater Metro Junior A Hockey League.
While Akil Thomas is on a roll in Canada, Charles Williams is in the flow stopping pucks across the border for Cansius College in Buffalo, New York.
Williams earned a 3-0 victory against NU’s Purple Eagles on Friday and a 2-1 win on Saturday. The wins extended Canisius’ unbeaten streak to 17 games, dating back to January.
A Canton, Michigan native, Williams is a nominee for the Hobey Baker Award, given annually to the top NCAA men’s hockey player. He’s also a semifinalist for the Mike Richter Award, presented to the best goaltender in NCAA Division I hockey.
Williams, a fifth-year transfer from Ferris State University, posted a 15-6-4 regular season record. He led all NCAA Division I goaltenders with a .944 save percentage and was tied for first with 5 shutouts. He was second among D-I goalies with a 1.83 goals-against average.