Jonny Ruiz sits down with ASHI for our first Team USA U20 player profile. Jon talks about his love for the game, his expectations for the Worlds, and his view of the opposition…

Jonny Ruiz is the U20 Team USA Captain.  He’s a Williamstown, NJ native and has been playing the sport he fell in love with since he was 5.  Jonny and the U20 Team are looking to become the first USA Junior to win gold since Mark Madden led a U20 squad to gold in Aosta, Italy in 2006.  ASHI sat down with Jonny to talk about his expectations, his preparation, and what his hopes are for the tournament come June in Bratislava, Slovakia.

(Click here to watch footage of Jonny on the rink and also answer some of our questions)

Describe for us the first time you played street hockey?.

I grew up in Williamstown, NJ. I started playing street hockey at age 5. I played nine years for the Monroe Storm. We had a lot of successful teams. We were able to gain respect by winning two US National Titles in Leominster at Beaver and Cadet. I also had the good fortune to play for Bellmawr. They are one of the top clubs in South Jersey. I play for the Red Army Freshman team now.

Do you have any prior experience at the World level?

I have played in two World Championships. In 2012, I played on the U20 team in Pisek, Czech Republic. In 2013, I played for the [WBHF] Men’s team that went to the World Championships in Toronto.

How does it feel to be named captain?

It’s an amazing feeling to be named the captain. I feel very honored to be trusted in a leadership position. The opportunity that the coaches are giving me to lead the team is one that I don’t take lightly. It comes with huge responsibilities that I feel like I’m ready to take on. I learned a lot about leadership in the two world championships that I’ve played in.

Anybody on your previous World’s teams that made an impact on you?

On the last U20 team, Robby Roth showed me what a true leader is all about. He and Coach Cory Herschk had a huge impact on me and I hope to bring their level of leadership to this team.

What do you know of your U20 team? Any friends on the team?

I do know many of the players on the team. I’ve played with or against them in a lot of tournaments. I’m very close to the core guys from the last U20 team that went to the Czech Republic. My linemate Eric Zimmerman, Matt Caron, Nick DelleChiaie, Korey Wilson and Brandon Jones. They are tremendously talented players. I’m very excited to play with them and some new faces in Slovakia. With this team, we have a great chance to win Gold. That’s what we plan on doing!

What do you think of the Czechs, Slovaks and Canadians?

All three countries have solid teams. The Czechs and Slovaks have very similar styles. The Canadians are usually dominant. They have ridiculous skills. Very good at handling the ball and passing. Very strong in the corners. They will be tough to beat.

How do you feel overall about the tournament with the talent the USA is bringing to Slovakia?

Knowing what to expect from the opposing teams and with our style of play, I think we can beat each of them.

What about your coaches?

I’m very confident in this group of players and our coaching staff in particular. This is going to be a year to remember!