Despite not being able to finish his first NHL game, it was a dream come true for goaltender Sami Aittokallio.
With Semyon Varlamov out with a hip injury and veteran Jean-Sebastien Giguere having played the previous night, the Finnish goalie received his first NHL call-up and his first NHL start April 11 in Los Angeles against the Kings. Unfortunately for the 20-year-old goalie, he had to leave midway through the third period after both of his legs cramped up.
"I knew it was cramps and on both legs," Aittokallio said before 2013 rookie camp. "I don't know what quite happened because I drank the same amount fluids like I usually do. I don't know, maybe it was a little bit of nerves or something like that.”
The leg cramps occurred on a typical goalie play, going from one post to the other while the puck was in the zone.
Up until he was forced to leave the game, Aittokallio was playing fairly well, especially for being the second-youngest goalie ever to start for Colorado (Marc Denis, 19, Dec. 7, 1996). He made 23 saves in the game and held his own during a tough first period in which he faced 15 shots and three L.A. power plays, including one just three seconds into the contest.
While the first period wasn't easy for the young netminder, Aittokallio said it was nice to face a lot of shots early to get him into the game.
“Maybe it was a good thing because I got into that game right when it started," he said. "If I didn't get any shots, I don't know what would have happened."
The Kings led 2-0 after the first period, but Aittokallio shut them down the rest of way and allowed the Avs to score twice and tie the game early in the third stanza, just before the injury occurred.
“It was tough because I really wanted to finish that game – obviously, my first NHL game," he said. "I think we still had a chance to win, so I really wanted to win that game.”
While he was disappointed that he had to leave his first contest, Aittokallio said it was a great experience and he learned a lot in his NHL stay.
He said he hopes to get more opportunities for playing time with the NHL club this season, but until then Aittokallio will keep working on his game with the Lake Erie Monsters.
"It would be great to get a couple starts here in Colorado, and you never know what happens during the season so you have to be ready all the time," he said. "In Cleveland, I'll go play there and win as many games as possible and play as many games as possible and always be ready for when I get called up.”
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