California native Ortega wins NCHC rookie of the week


There’s not a good chance you’ll find much natural ice in California. Despite the fact, freshman Austin Ortega, a native of Escondido, Calif., has found a niche with UNO hockey and won the honor of NCHC Conference Rookie of the Week.
“I thought it was pretty cool to win, it was my first time and it was exciting,” Ortega said. “Our team had a really good weekend and individually also I thought I played well as well as with the team so it was nice.”
Ortega found interest with hockey as a kid, and it took off from there.
“Well, being from California there’s hockey but not as much as other places,” Ortega said. “I’d say it started when I was around six, kind of just at a public skating party and I saw a hockey game going on it kind of intrigued me and I started about a year later.”
An oddity on the West Coast Ortega was the first in his family to pursue the winter sport.
“No one in my family had ever played. But I watched hockey a little bit growing up. Ziggy Palffy was always my role model growing up on the Kings,” Ortega said.
After playing low-level hockey in the Golden State Ortega moved to play in the most opposite of places, Indiana and then Fargo ND with their USHL team.
“That was a good experience, being away from home obviously is different,” Ortega said. “The climate change was pretty different also, considering it’s really cold up there but I actually liked it a lot. It prepared me for coming to college more.”
Ortega had 53 goals and 40 assists in all during his time in the USHL before coming to Omaha and becoming a Mav.
“At first it was new but now a couple months later it’s warmed up to me. Now I’m used to it and I’d say it’s definitely my home now,” Ortega said.
Ortega has found a place within the program to thrive in just his freshman year.
“The organization is great as a whole, the guys on the team are really good guys, good players and I just enjoy the experience a lot here at UNO and the school’s really treated me well,” Ortega said.
In 23 games, Ortega has six goals and six assists. When asked what areas he’s looking to improve on, he pointed to defense.
“I’d say my defensive play, offensively I think I’m doing pretty well but mostly my defensive play can always use work.”
Individually Ortega brings to the ice intensity that is unique to him and the team.
“I bring a lot of tenacity I bring a different edge considering my size being different, but the tenacity I bring and the speed is what helps the team out,” Ortega said.
After getting honors as a rookie from the NCHC, Ortega looks to continue to take steps and grow.
“Just continue to keep playing well and hopefully get things to come my way.”