CALGARY — Unheralded Josh Jooris continued his unexpected push to open the season with the Calgary Flames on Thursday.
The 24-year-old right-winger scored twice in the third period including the winner to lead the Calgary Flames to a 4-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets in NHL pre-season action.
Most of the work on the go-ahead goal came from Johnny Gaudreau, who spun away from a Jets defenceman along the sideboards, than drew the other defenceman towards him in the slot before slipping the puck to a wide open Jooris down low, who beat Michael Hutchinson.
“That’s great work by Johnny there. I don’t know how he managed to get out of the corner with two guys on him,” said Jooris.
The native of Burlington, Ont., has been a pleasant surprise at Flames camp. Undrafted, Jooris left Union College after three years to sign with Calgary a year ago. He spent all of last year with the American Hockey League’s Abbotsford Heat.
“It’s been a good ride,” said Jooris. “It’s kind of surreal, I don’t think a lot of other people thought I’d be here. I’m kind of an underdog but it’s exciting.”
Jooris’s second goal, which made it 4-1, came five minutes later and again it was after a sequence initiated by Gaudreau. Only this time, it was Flames 2014 fourth overall pick Sam Bennett that made the nice pass to Jooris for a one-timer from in front.
“It was nice to get on the scoresheet there. Two great plays by two great players but that’s secondary for me. First and foremost is focusing on the details and the little things and being trustworthy out there for the coaches,” Jooris said. “The slogan, they mean it here. ’Always earned, never given.’ I just have to keep going out there and earning the ice and earning a spot on this team.”
Jooris, Bennett, Michael Ferland, Sven Baertschi and Gaudreau — who had three assists — are all battling for what may end up being only one open forward job, depending on injuries.
Coach Bob Hartley credits the kids for making the final roster decisions difficult.
“It’s not getting any easier. There’s going to be lots of long nights thinking about it and after tonight’s game, the nights are just getting longer and longer,” Hartley said. “We have some good, really young players who are coming up and right now they’re making statements.”
Sean Monahan also scored twice for the Flames (5-3-0).
Mark Scheifele and Cliff Thorburn scored for Winnipeg (2-4-0). The Jets and Flames (5-3-0) will wrap up the pre-season on Saturday when they meet again.