Juniors Journal: Texan Ortiz takes unique journey to Jersey
by Shawn Hutcheon/Contributor
Junior hockey teams scout throughout the world for the best and most talented players they can find. Some players are subjected to the recruiting wars that pit team versus team off the ice. Every once in a while, a player with a dream falls into a team’s lap. Such is the case for Marcus Ortiz and the Atlantic Junior Hockey League’s New Jersey Titans.
“I grew up playing hockey with the Dallas Stars AAA youth organization and worked my way up through midgets and worked my way into the North American Hockey League in Odessa, Texas with the Jackalopes for a while. Then I ended up in Florida,” Ortiz explained. “This year, I attended the Johnstown (Pa.) Tomahawks tryouts, which were in the New Jersey Titans’ arena, and kind of fell in love with the Titans organization and I’m very fortunate to be here. I’ve never been happier in my hockey career.”
Ortiz is an example of what a player can achieve when he has found the team that is the right fit for him. He is tied for the league’s goal scoring lead, having scored 17 lamplighters in 27 games, while his 30 points place him eighth in the AJHL. He also has put the puck in the back of the net eight times on the power play. That is also tops in the circuit.
The affable Texan is quick to acknowledge he would not be enjoying this season’s success without the people around him.
“Coach (Dustin De Palma) really pushes me in practice and our owner, George Haviland, is really great about giving us all the ice time we need to get better every day. so I work really hard on my shot. I pride myself on my skill and my offensive ability, and this year I’ve really gotten the chance to show it,” Ortiz said. “I’m playing with some great players who are really able to help out. I really owe it to them. Without them, I wouldn’t have as many points as I do. Since day one, our team camaraderie has been really strong. We have a really tight-knit group.”
Ortiz may not be the biggest player on the ice (5-foot-11), but he enjoys the physical aspects of the game and can be found in hockey’s “dirty areas” of the ice using his 180 pounds to win battles for loose pucks and rebounds. He also possesses a strong skating stride which allows him to win races for pucks and create scoring opportunities for himself and teammates.
“I try to use kind of a hybrid style. Claude Giroux (Philadelphia Flyers) is one of my favorite players. He’s a greatly skilled player, but I also like the way Alexander Ovechkin (Washington Capitals) plays, so I try to play with a little bit of both styles. I try to bring a little bit of the finesse game but I also like the gritty style of game too. It’s paid off for me and I like it and it seems to work for me,” Ortiz said.
That “hybrid” style of play has brought plenty of attention upon Ortiz.
“I’d like to play college hockey somewhere in New York,” Ortiz said. “I’ve been speaking with Manhattanville, Potsdam, SUNY-Canton, Curry, Hobart and Elmira but it’s all up in the air right now.”
More often than not, when a youngster begins to play hockey, he also begins to dream of playing college hockey. Marcus Ortiz will undoubtedly wear the uniform of a college or university next season, fulfilling a lifelong dream of his own. He is the type of player all coaches search for on the ice and has the personality that coaches and teammates will instantly enjoy off the ice as well. Marcus Ortiz will be proof positive that dreams do come true.
Game of the Week
For those of you in the vicinity of Ice Works Syosset in Syosset, N.Y., this weekend, don’t be surprised when you look around the building and see more college and professional scouts than normal. The New York Bobcats will host the AJHL’s first place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights. The Bobcats are in third place and trail the Knights by just two points.
There should be plenty of offensive fireworks in the series as WBS forward Jack Ceglarski leads all league scorers with 40 points. His linemate Jason Zaleski ranks fifth with 28 points. Erik Moberg is the third member of the Knights to be in the circuit’ top ten scorers. His 27 points has him in seventh position overall.
The Bobcats know how to put the puck in the net as well, Patrick Schule (Fresh Meadows, NY) is second in the AJHL with 32 points. Linemate Christopher Wallace (Nesconset, NY) is third in the circuit with 31 points.
The teams have met twice this season with the Bobcats winning the first tilt (6-4) and the Knights taking the rematch (3-2 OT).
1) Jersey Hitmen (16-5-0-0-0) - The Hitmen had last weekend off due to the Eastern Junior Hockey League’s Thanksgiving break. Entering this weekend, Jersey is in first place in the league’s Southern Division along with being first overall in the EJHL. They also lead the circuit in goals scored (114), goals per game (5.43), power play (31.6 percent) and penalty killing (89.7 percent). Forward Brendan Bradley is leads all EJHL scorers with 36 points. The Hitmen will return to action Saturday in the Granite State in the first match of a two game series against the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs.
2) New York Bobcats (15-6-0-1) - New York went to the Atlantic Junior Hockey League’s Thanksgiving Showcase in Hudson, NH last weekend where they did not get the desired results. The Bobcats dropped a hard fought contest to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights in overtime (3-2) before defeating the Connecticut Wolfpack (4-2). The Bobcats finished the weekend losing to the Walpole Express (7-3). As a result, New York left Hudson in third place in league standings. Patrick Schule’s 32 points leads the Bobcats and is second best in the AJHL. Thursday, New York will host the Wolfpack before facing off for two games this weekend against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights.
3) Rochester Jr. Stars (8-9-0-3-0) - The Stars enjoyed Thanksgiving with their families as they occupy fifth place in the EJHL’s Northern Division. Matt Esposito’s 20 points leads the Stars who will return to the ice in Brewster, New York for a two game series against New York Apple Core Saturday and Sunday.
4) New York Apple Core (9-11-0-0-0) - Apple Core is hoping the time off last week rejuvenated their club. They are in fifth place of the Eastern Junior hockey League’s Southern Division and hope to make it into the top four before Christmas. Tyler Young (Sayville, NY) has produced 24 points this season and will be counted on to continue setting the pace for his club. Young’s teammate, Michael Laffin (Hopewell Junction, NY) continues to be on the NHL Central Scouting list for North American 18-year-old players. New York will host the Rochester Jr. Stars in a two contest series this weekend.
5) New Jersey Rockets (7-12-3-1) - The Rockets entered the AJHL Thanksgiving Showcase having won five of their previous seven tilts but things did not go as hoped as NJR left the showcase winless in three tries. New Jersey lost to the Walpole Express (6-1), Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights (5-4 OT) and Connecticut Wolfpack (5-3). The weekend left the Rockets in seventh place in the circuit. Forward Brooks Lewis registered three points to add to his team leading total of nineteen. New Jersey gets back to action against the Washington Jr. Nationals in Laurel, Maryland Saturday and Sunday.
6) New Jersey Titans (8-12-1-0) - The Titans had the same misfortune as the Rockets at the AJHL Thanksgiving Showcase. NJT dropped decisions to the Connecticut Wolfpack (6-1), Walpole Express (6-0) and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights (4-2). New Jersey is winless in its last five games and sits in ninth place, one point behind the Philadelphia Junior Flyers and New Jersey Rockets. Despite the recent run of bad luck for his team, forward Marcus Ortiz is scoring at a consistent rate and ranks eighth in league scoring with 27 points. NJT has three contests on its schedule this weekend. They will host Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday and the Philadelphia Junior Flyers on Saturday. Sunday, the Titans will hit the road for a match versus the Junior Flyers.