Williams, Davis lead Toledo Cherokees to nationals

J. Patrick Eaken

The Toledo Cherokees Junior A hockey team finished the season 33-9-1-1 and qualified for the U.S. Premier Hockey League national tournament.

They were led by team captain, Bryce Davis of Elmore, assistant captain Caleb Williams of Genoa, and coaches and support staff members from Oregon.

Head coach Kenny Miller, equipment manager Jay Fravor, broadcaster Zeke Fravor and game day operations manager and team statistician Brandee Stanton are from Oregon.

In the USPHL, the Cherokees finished second in the Great Lakes Division and got a first-round playoff bye. The Cherokees swept the Pittsburgh Vengeance in a best of three games to qualify for the USPHL Premier Division national championships in Hampton Rhodes, Virginia.

“I really could go on and on about our amazing organization and how special this year’s team was,” Stanton said. “The season didn’t end as we hoped as we were eliminated after going 2-1 while in Virginia. We came out strong. The Toledo Cherokee were the underdogs, and we were the talk of the USPHL national championships.”

Williams, a 6-foot, 180-pound left-handed left winger who graduated from Genoa High School in 2018, says the Cherokees were not taken seriously when they arrived in Virginia.

 “I don’t think people were giving us a chance when we got down there, but after going 2-0 right off the bat it kind of changed people’s minds. Unfortunately, we could not get into the semis,” said Coach Miller.

The Cherokees defeated the Minnesota Moose 4-2 and the Fresno Monsters 7-2, but were eliminated by the Carolina Hurricanes 5-2 at Chilled Ponds Sentara Healthcare Rink.

“We went in and the league had their media and stuff, and we were not really talked about at all. Then, our first game we played the Minnesota Moose and we beat them, and everybody that made brackets had the Minnesota Moose winning the whole tournament. That was a good feeling that people think this is the best team and we beat them and then we have a chance. I think in the second game we fed off that energy. In the third game, we just came up short,” Williams said.

Miller says since Williams and Davis were captains, their time on the ice was only part of their contribution. They meant everything to the team on and off the ice.

Davis admits that being chosen team captain caught him off guard.

“Our previous captain went up and played in New England, so I was kind of surprised about it and kind of nervous, too, but I just continued to play and it didn’t really change anything about me,” Davis said.

Williams played in 43 games with 10 goals and 24 assists and Davis played in 39 games with 14 goals and 10 assists. This is Williams’ third and final season playing for the Cherokees as he ages out, but he plans to play for the University of Toledo club team next year. 

“He is a pretty skilled guy and played a role for us this year, especially late in the season in a fourth line checking role for us. We’re happy that he is able to continue to play,” Miller said.

“Caleb had a five-assist game in early February for us when we were on our little run. We went 17-1-2 after Christmas break. We made a couple roster changes, got rid of a couple guys and added a few new guys and we took off, and he had a five-point game.”

Davis, a 6-3, 190-pound right-handed center who graduated from Woodmore in 2019, has one more year of eligibility with the Cherokees. Next year will be his fourth season.

“He is a heart and soul guy — he is the captain of the team, he is the leader, plays hard every night and never takes a night off,” Miller said. “He is physical. If you had 25 Bryce Davis’s on your team you would win a lot of hockey games. You know you would be getting an effort every night. Bryce is the kind of guy who plays hard and competes. He is exactly the kind of player you would want to coach.

“He will do anything — he will fight a guy if he has to, he will run a guy over, and he’s a fairly typical hard-nosed junior hockey player,” Miller continued.

Williams said there was one win this year that he will never forget — defeating the Metro Jets out of Fraser, Michigan.

“I’ll definitely remember this year beating Metro because the Metro Jets were definitely a team we could never get past when I first started,” Williams said. “We never beat them, and then the first time we played them this season, we beat them. That was really memorable.”

There was another win in 2019-20 that sticks in Williams’ mind.

“It was our first game of the year in Columbus and that was Columbus’ inaugural season, so that was their first game and that was probably one of the biggest crowds I’ve played in front of,” Williams said. “There were about 600, 700 people maybe, and then I scored in that game and that is something I’ll remember, just how sweet it was coming into a place like that and beating that team hosting their first game.”


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