Three Michigan Men are expected play their first professional game in their home state tonight as the Reign take on Grand Rapids.
Defenseman Matt Roy, forward Drake Rymsha and goaltender Charles Williams are all expected to be in tonight’s lineup tonight against the Griffins and all three will be well represented with family and friends in the stands as they all play within a couple of hours of home.
The second-year blueliner Roy comes from Canton, MI, which is about two hours from Grand Rapids, estimated that he has about “20 to 30 people coming tonight” to the game.
“It will be pretty cool,” Roy said of playing in his home state. “I knew about the Griffins growing up, being a Red Wings fan. It will be really fun having everybody here and with the snow falling tonight it should be a good time.”
Roy played in his home state in college, spending three seasons at Michigan Tech,from 2014-17, before he began his professional career with Ontario in spring 2017. Roy said that his parents were able to see him play at Michigan Tech every so often (he noted that it is about 8 to 9 hours from his hometown) and also when Tech played at Michigan or Michigan State, both of which were within a hour of his house.
“This is an easy drive for them compared to what it was,” he said. “They came up, probably once every two or three months at school and luckily we played down here a lot which was nice.”
Tonight’s game will be Roy’s first pro game in his home state, and is excited to have so many people coming to tonight’s tilt.
“Family, friends, extended family, basically anybody that has room in their schedule tonight,” he said. “It’s the closest to home for us so everyone’s excited.”
Joining Roy tonight is another Canton native in goaltender Charles Williams, who was tonight’s first goaltender off after morning skate, indicating he is expected to get the start tonight. Like Roy, Williams played collegiate hockey in-state for three years, playing at Ferris St. before transferring to Canisius for his senior season.
Van Andel Arena is not a new venue for Williams – The WCHA played its conference tournament here while Williams played at Ferris St. and the Bulldogs won the tournament in 2016, Williams’ last year with the program.
“In college, we had our conference tournament here the first few years, the WCHA,” Williams said. “We’ve had a lot of fun in this barn. I’ve played against some of the guys, I played against Brickley here. It’s familiar and it’s good to be back.”
Williams has a lot of family and friends coming out tonight being from the area. His parents, unrelated to his callup, had previously moved out to Southern California and were in attendance for his first AHL win on Sunday against Stockton. Tonight marks the first time many other family and friends will see him play professionally.
“It’s going to be awesome,” Williams said. “It’s my first pro game out here so it’s another exciting moment. Some of my host family from Ferris St. are coming up, some guys from my fraternity coming up and my cousins, so I’m definitely looking forward to it. It’s going to be electric and I’m just ready to go.”
The third member of the Michigan contingent is rookie forward Drake Rymsha, who is also playing professionally in his home state for the first time.
Rymsha played his major-junior hockey in the OHL, which has Michigan-based teams in Flint and Saganaw, but Rymsha said that both teams are pretty far from home, while Grand Rapids is about two hours from his hometown of Huntington Woods.
He added that while he had never been to a game in Grand Rapids, he grew up around the Red Wings and tonight’s game, against Detroit’s top affiliate, should be a cool experience.
“You grew up going to the games, right?,” Rymsha said. “You idolize guys like Zetterberg, Datsyuk, McCarty and Draper and all those guys, so to be playing against the organization is pretty cool. It’s something I’m looking forward to and more importantly, the team’s looking forward to it as well.
He also noted that while his dad has seen him play once professionally, tonight will be the first time that his friends and family will see him play as a professional. His mom, grandma and grandpa, as well as aunts and uncles will be in attendance tonight.
“They’ve helped me countless times, whatever I need they’re always there.” Rymsha said. “They’re the backbone, they’re one of the main reasons why I’ve gotten this far in hockey. To be able to play here in front of them, for them to see my first pro game against Grand Rapids, it’s pretty exciting.”