Meanwhile, back at the ranch ...

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

TAMPA -- Several years ago, a nervous Jeremy Williams looked at the man sitting beside him in the Maple Leafs dressing room and became nauseous.

"It was Mats Sundin," Williams, 24, recounted yesterday. "I felt like puking."

That incident occurred prior to his first NHL game, one in which he scored against the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was a trend that has continued.

When Williams converted a feed from that same Mats Sundin in a 4-3 victory over the Florida Panthers on Wednesday, he became the first NHL player to be called up for one game in three consecutive seasons and score in each one.

Back at the Williams household in Candiac, Sask. -- a hamlet Jeremy estimates with a population of eight -- those in the living room erupted with glee when the recently called-up forward beat Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun.

"Mom and dad were pretty excited," Jeremy's sister, Hailee, said yesterday from the family ranch. "We had a lot of people calling."

By the time he checked his phone after the game, Williams -- whose off-season regimen includes shovelling manure -- estimated he had 32 text messages waiting.

Jeremy's father, Kevin, and brother, Tristen, dabble in the rodeo a bit. Jeremy did, too, at one time, but opted for hockey, which was not good news for his mom's china cabinet.

AIM NOT GOOD

"I would fire a tennis ball," he said. "The china cabinet was about four feet from where I was aiming but I guess my aim wasn't that good. I must have broken the thing about eight times."

That did not go over well with his mother, Joan.

"She got so mad, she took my white-and-red wooden Titan hockey stick and tried to break it," Jeremy said with a laugh. "When she couldn't, she finally tried to throw it as far as she could."

At 16, young Jeremy missed half a season with a cracked vertebrae suffered in a car accident. Since then, he has grappled to find the consistency that is needed to make him a bonafide NHLer.

"There are parts of my game I need to work on," he said. "But I realize this is an audition and I plan to make the most of it."


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