Jay Williams has been fighting to have his hockey skills noticed, because as a native of McLean, Va., he's not from a typical hotbed for hockey talent.
But the 17-year-old goaltender will get the opportunity to showcase himself when he backstops the U.S. team at the upcoming Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, which will be held Aug. 9-14 in Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
With teams from Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, and Sweden among the eight teams competing, the tournament provides a great opportunity for the players to measure themselves against some of the top competition in the world at their age level.
"Playing in Virginia is definitely tough," Williams said. "There aren't as many opportunities because the teams from around here aren't as competitive. I think if you get an opportunity like the Select Festival, you have to go out there and make the most of it."
He left Virginia to play at the elite Hotchkiss School in Connecticut, and parlayed success there into a spot this season with the U.S. National Team Development Program, and a scholarship to play in 2011-12 at the University of Miami (Ohio).
This won't be Williams' first trip overseas with a USA Hockey team. Last year, he helped the U.S. finish third at the Under-17 Five Nations Tournament in Germany. Williams won both his starts, beating Switzerland 4-3 and then stopping 32 of 38 shots in a 9-6 decision against Germany.
"I was lucky enough to make (a USA Hockey team) last year and it has pretty much been my goal to make it back," Williams said. "I'm really excited. We have a great group of guys, a really good team, and it should be a lot of fun. There are five or six guys who were on the team last year. I definitely think the experience of being over there last year will help us moving forward. Going over there, the goal is to win a gold medal."
Throughout the summer, Williams has used the time away from school to focus on his off-ice conditioning, hitting the gym four or five times a week with college players to get stronger. He also skates twice during the week to sharpen his footwork between the pipes.
"I want to go over there and win a gold medal," Williams said. "That would be pretty special."