CALGARY — After playing 40 NHL games last season as a rookie, Ben Chiarot came to Jets training camp this year a lot more prepared for what it takes to play in the NHL. It has shown.
The 24-year-old defenceman has been the talk of camp and he continued his impressive pre-season Saturday night scoring his third goal in the Jets’ 3-2 win over the Calgary Flames.
"I got some experience last year, playing three-quarters of the season. I feel comfortable here now. the game feels slower," said Chiarot, who finishes the pre-season tied for the Jets’ goal-scoring lead with forward Mark Scheifele. "I don’t have those jitters in games any more, I’m confident in what I’m doing out there and I’m just doing it."
The second-period goal Chiarot scored was a beauty. Putting the Jets in front 2-0, he curled off the side boards and from a sharp angle zipped a snapshot over the shoulder of Karri Ramo and just under the crossbar.
Having scored just twice last season, Chiarot cautions, don’t let his goal total mislead you.
"That’s not where my bread is buttered really, it just happened to go in," said Chiarot.
Blake Wheeler Drew Stafford, into an empty net, had the other goals for Winnipeg (3-2-2).
Lance Bouma and David Jones replied for Calgary (4-4-0).
The Flames open the regular season at home on Wednesday against Vancouver. The Jets open a four-game road trip Thursday in Boston. Both sides are ready to get the real games started.
"I can’t wait. I’m so sick of (pre-season). I wish we played three games. Seven games? Come on," said Stafford. "It’s all about habits and making sure we’re ready to go but I wish it was a little bit shorter, because everyone’s excited to get going after a while."
Flames coach Bob Hartley says his team is also anxious to get going again after they surprised many by not only making the playoffs a year ago but going two rounds.
"We’re still a very young hockey club led by great leaders, great veterans but at the same time, as an organization, we invested a lot in our young players and they did great for the past two years," said Hartley. "Now, starting Wednesday, it’s another long marathon starting and I think everybody is very excited about it."
Calgary got to within one 3:45 into the third period when Bouma ended Ondrej Pavelec’s shutout bid by jamming in his first of the pre-season.
"It was more of a real pace out there, both teams dressed pretty much our entire line-ups. It was good to get the feel. I thought we did a lot of good things in that game," said Flames captain Mark Giordano.
"We take a lot of positive out of this game. It was a good way to get into the season."
Pavelec finished with 29 stops while Ramo had 21 saves.
One of the most interesting decisions left for the Flames is what will they do in net where they have three players on one-way contracts. Veteran Jonas Hiller and 24-year-old rookie Joni Ortio are the other two.
"I think it’s pretty clear in our mind but I don’t know yet on which day we’re going to come out with it, but I don’t think it will be a big surprise," Hartley said when asked if he knew who his starter would be.
Notes: Jiri Hudler (lower body) did not play the third period but Hartley said it was very minor and he would have played if it had been a regular season game…. Healthy scratches for Calgary were Mason Raymond, Paul Byron, Markus Granlund, Ryan Wilson (on a Professional Try-Out contract) and Ortio… Notable scratches for Winnipeg were Andrew Ladd, Adam Lowry, Mark Scheifele and Dustin Byfuglien.