Tyler Ortega has hit emotional extremes already this season.
A freshman goalie at New Trier High School, he hoped to make the school’s JV team, but was cut after tryouts.
“I felt like quitting,” Ortega admitted.
But after talking with his parents and weighing his options, Ortega had opportunities with other clubs, “and once I got the chance to skate with Notre Dame College Prep, I really liked what I saw from the team and coaches. Getting to skate for them the day after getting cut really helped me move on and my confidence started coming back immediately.
“Everyone at Notre Dame is very nice and the coaches are great. We are getting better with every practice and game.”
Ortega is a key player for Notre Dame and has already seen varsity action, too.
In fact, he helped the Dons defeat Mount Carmel on the road for an early-season W.
“The game was at Morgan Park Ice Arena. I had never been there and it was a really (long) drive,” Ortega said. “I was a little nervous before the game and let in a bad goal early. But then I settled down and we won, 4-1. It was fun seeing good offense.”
After the game, the Notre Dame senior captains presented Ortega with the game-puck and everyone cheered for him in the locker room. “It was so awesome. I could tell it meant a lot to the seniors for me to get my first varsity win. They are some great guys,” he said.
Ortega, 14, who lives in Northfield, played for Winnetka Bantam 1 last season. He’s wearing jersey No. 55 for the Dons, which is fine with him as it’s also the number of a basketball player he likes, Luka Garza of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“At first, I felt like I maybe didn’t belong, especially with the varsity team. But now, I feel like a different person; I feel much more confident and quicker in the crease because I’ve had to adjust to the speed of the varsity game,” Ortega said. “It really helps me with JV to play with varsity. The really cool thing is, the crowds seem louder than any crowds I’ve ever played in front of. We played a game in Bensenville and our crowd was crazy loud. They even started a “Let’s Go Dons” chant; it was awesome. It gave the team extra energy and helped carry us to (victory).”
Ortega said his personal goals for the season are simply to improve. “I want to get quicker, faster, bigger, stronger and just become the best goalie I can be so I can help my team win as many games as possible,” he said. “I also want to be able to make a New Trier team next year, and all the time I’m playing this year should help me achieve that goal next year.”
Ortega is a quick, athletic goalie. “I’m not big, so I have to be quick and trust my technique and fundamentals,” he said. “There are some huge goalies, especially at the varsity level. I’ve got a pretty active glove, have a fast reaction time and am quite flexible.
“I’d say my style is mostly butterfly, but some might say I’m a hybrid goalie.”
Stopping Slapshots With … Notre Dame College Prep goalie Tyler Ortega
Little-Known Fact: “I was born on April 1st. I’m an April Fool’s baby.”
Away From Hockey: “I hang out with my family and friends. I like to golf with my dad. I also like to go to different sporting events, such as Chicago Cubs games, Iowa Hawkeye games and Chicago Blackhawks games. We’ve recently become fans of the Chicago Dogs baseball team in Rosemont; their games are fun.”
Favorite NHL Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Favorite NHL Player: Marc-Andre Fleury
Favorite Sport (other than hockey): Baseball
Favorite Pro Athlete: Keegan Murray
Favorite app: Snapchat
Favorite TV show: Family Guy
Favorite Pregame Meal: Steak & Shake
Celebrity You’d Most Like to Meet: Marc-Andre Fleury
Best Hockey Tip: “Savor this time with your teammates and friends because your time playing hockey will fly by and before you know it, it will all be over” – His parents
Teammate Who You Could See As A Hockey Coach: Denny Davoren
Hardest Slapshot on Your Team: Nick Messina
Most Accurate Shot: Michael Fattore
Fastest Skater: Dylan Gonzalez
One Pregame Song: The Real Slim Shady
Favorite Sports Movie: Miracle
Best High School Jerseys (other than Notre Dame): Glenbrook North