Ortio’s Time to Shine
In the world of hockey, we continuously see the emergence of goaltenders in the game. Guys who just seem to turn heads as soon as they step onto the ice. Take Rob Zepp for example, from the Philadelphia Flyers. At 30 years of age, he had the opportunity to play for the club and has put up incredibly solid numbers since filling the crease. But with a recent injury occurring in Calgary, seeing goaltender Karri Ramo fall after receiving a knee to the head on a rush play by fellow teammate Raphael Diaz, a goaltender born and raised in Turku, Finland got a chance to step up to the plate… and no, it’s not who you’re thinking.
Joni Ortio, a native of Turku, Finland; and ironically the same hometown where former Flames elite goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff was born, has began to make quite the impression at the young age of 23; and seems to being one of the goaltenders of the future for the Calgary Flames hockey club. Ortio had gotten the opportunity to step up to the plate with the main club for the first time this season when Karri Ramo had fallen with injury; allowing Joni to get a 5 game showcasing. Normally, it is to be expected that a goaltender making his first starts at such a young age is to be shaky… but that was not the case. In a five game stint with the Flames, before heading back to Adirondack, Ortio posted a record of 4-1-0 and winning some key games for the team who are looking to make a push for the postseason. Joni quickly proved that in high-pressure situations he can keep a cool and calm head and play a big role in his teams success. A 36 save, shutout performance against the Vancouver Canucks is not something to take lightly, and that is exactly what Ortio had accomplished in his first game of the season with the Flames back on January 10th. He followed that performance with three other victories, showing the team and management that he can be trusted and that he is ready to take centre stage with the main club.
Finn’s Making a Statement
All of this is coming after a more-or-less disappointment of a season last year, as many believed that was his year to shine and take his place as the Flames’ top goaltender… but that did not happen. Instead he played all of 9 games in the 2013-2014 season and went 4-4-0 with an .891 save percentage, and a 2.51 goals against average. He was also pulled after allowing 4 goals on 13 shots in a game against the Nashville Predators. Many then believed that the highly touted Finnish goaltending prospect may not have been all that he was believed to live up to. But at the time, only being the tender age of 22 made it too early to make that call. In his stay with the main club this season, his save percentage was .931 and his goals against average stood at 1.98, only allowing 9 goals against in 5 games. And now, here we stand and and Ortio is causing a lot of buzz about the goaltending future in Calgary, as well as making a strong case to get his chance to prove himself. The young goaltender has made massive strides in his improvement and development, and seems as though he’s only going to get better from here. The Adirondack Flames are having great success this season, mainly due to Ortion’s performances and coming up with victories in 20 of the 34 games he’s played for them this season.
So this leads us to the question… What is it with Finland and their development of goaltenders? We have seen an influx of goalies come from Finland and lay their mark on the National Hockey League; and among those were yet another Calgary Flames goaltender in Miikka Kiprusoff. Early on in his career, he struggled and many didn’t think anything of him; especially not that he would become one of the top elite goaltenders in the game. That is why San Jose was able to trade him; which is definitely a move they would have used one of their mulligan’s on if they could have. Early on in his career in San Jose, he put up numbers of 5-14-0… but as his career grew on to shatter goaltending records set for the Calgary Flames and will always be remembered as one of; if not the greatest Flames goaltender in the history of the team. But he is not the only Finnish goaltender who has been the backbone of a team. Are you familiar with the name Tuuka Rask? Or how about Kari Lehtonen? As well as Pekka Rinne? All goaltenders who are making their marks for themselves within the NHL, and continuing to show that Finland is responsible for creating NHL ready goaltenders.
All that in mind, is it safe to say that Joni Ortio will be the next Finnish goaltender to leave his mark on the NHL and prove that he can be the goaltender that Flames fans everywhere are hoping he is? There are still a lot of question marks and unanswered questions about this young man but it is safe to say that it will be a treat watching him develop and battle for a spot in Calgary’s already tough goaltending duel.