CALGARY, AB -- The mission for Joni Ortio remains the same.
The result, he expects, will be more fruitful as he battles to earn one of two goaltending positions with the Calgary Flames.
And, he suggests, this go-round feels a little different from efforts’ past.
“I maybe feel a little better going in, obviously, with one more year under my belt,” said the 24-year-old, in fierce competition with returning goaltenders Karri Ramo and Jonas Hiller for the right to represent Calgary’s crease. “I had a couple more games up with the big club last year so I feel better, feel more confident for sure. It’s going to be a unique situation, having three goalies on one-ways, but I don’t think it changes that much for us three.
“We all have the same goal. We want to play. We want to be the one who starts October 7th.”
It’s the same situation Ortio found himself a year ago.
Coming into camp last fall, the native of Turku, Finland found himself up against Hiller and Ramo, but, with a two-way, waiver exempt contract couldn’t earn a place on coach Bob Hartley’s roster. He did, however, manage a five-game stint with Hartley’s Flames in January, rattling off four consecutive wins at a key time in Calgary’s schedule.
In all, Ortio took six skates with the Flames, piecing together a 4-2-0 record with a 2.52 goals against average and a .908 save percentage to compliment the work he did in the American Hockey League with the Adirondack Flames.
He suspects his body of work, both at the NHL and AHL level, has yielded him another chance.
And there’s no one more confident that Ortio can seize another opportunity to prove his worth in the NHL ranks than himself.
“I’ve known that in myself for quite some time that I can play at that level,” said Ortio, whose two-way contract last year morphs into a one-way pact this season. “I have to remember it’s in the past, but obviously it was a good stint. Too bad it wasn’t longer than five games, but for sure, it got me more confident and got me more confident moving forward.
“If you’re not mentally strong and you can’t deal with adversity, it doesn’t matter how physically fit or sound you are, it won’t get you where you want to go. It’s a huge part of goaltending alongside the physical attributes.”
That confidence is the best part of his game, after all.
“Joni is a battler; he’s a fighter,” Hartley said. “He’s in there, he’s not the biggest goalie in size, but he replaces this with his competitiveness. He’s strong, he’s aggressive, plus he reads the game very well. I think that along with his quickness, you look at the stretch of four wins he gave us last year, that was pretty impressive and in camp right now, you can see that he’s on a mission.”
A mission the sixth round pick (No. 171) in the 2009 NHL Draft plans on seeing through.
“I’m sure I’ll get a look,” said Ortio, who went 21-13-1 with a 2.69 goals against average and .912 save percentage despite missing time with a high ankle sprain in Adirondack in 2014-15. “I’m sure I’ll get that opportunity to show what I’ve got. I just have to make the most of it. Nothing’s going to be handed over on a silver platter. The option is going to be there, but it’s up to me to grab it.”