Chris Wahl – 28.04.24

He closed out his NHL campaign with four straight wins.

And now, Dustin Wolf’s got his sights set on the second round of the AHL playoffs, after helping the Wranglers score a two-game sweep in Arizona last week.

Twice named the AHL’s top goalie over his young professional career, Wolf returned to the Wranglers and put forward a scintillating effort over two games in Tucson, stopping 86 of 89 shots as Calgary earned 2-0 and 4-3 wins against the No. 2-seeded Roadrunners.

The best-of-three format can be unpredictable at best, chaotic at worst, but for Wolf and his mates, the work trip to Tucson is just the start of what they want to accomplish this spring.

“Obviously we were the underdog coming into not only the series, but the playoffs in general,” he said Sunday. “But, you know, we have a team that personally, I don’t think is a number seven seed; we’ve got some weapons up front, a solid D core on the back.

“If we can score a few and limit their chances, I think we’re going to do pretty well.’

He’s come back to the AHL a more mature player.

Wolf, who turned 23 years of age April 16, totaled seven wins with the big club this season, including triumphs over the high-flying Hurricanes and Golden Knights during his 15 NHL starts.

Over the final stretch of the Flames’ campaign, he found his footing, and felt like he belonged in an NHL crease, and that’s paid dividends for the Wranglers since he re-joined the AHL club 10 days ago.

And he credits Flames goalie coach Jason LaBarbera with helping him suss out those subtle tweaks to help take his game to the next level.

“The last month and a half I was up there, I was really able to dive into some details that I have to get better at, at the NHL level,” he explained. “So I really dug into those deep with Barbs, and I think some of those details have really shown over the last four games I was able to win up there, and especially these first two playoff games.

“If I take those things that I’ve learned for the past month and a half up there, and implement them down here, I can take control of the game, really just feel good in my paint and help give my team confidence back there.”

Wolf’s always been able to perform under pressure.

As a 17-year-old, he posted seven shutouts and an eye-popping .936 save percentage with the WHL’s Everett Silvertips, all while playing in 61 of the team’s 68 regular season games.

A heavy workload, to say the least.

But beneath it all, there’s a steely self-composure, one that’s reflected in his eyes.

And inscribed on his goalie masks, words to live by.

‘Be humble, be hungry, and always be the hardest worker in the room.’

There’s no question Wolf is hungry: for that next NHL opportunity with the Flames, for that next win with the Wranglers this spring.

He’ll get his next chance Friday night, when Calgary opens its best-of-five Pacific Division semi-final on home ice at the Scotiabank Saddledome. TICKETS

Standing in their way, the Coachella Valley Firebirds, who knocked the Wranglers out of the playoffs in heart-breaking fashion last season.

For Wolf – and his teammates – this one’s personal.

“They’ve got a lot of skill and they’re deep, they ended our season last year, and now’s the opportunity to try and give it back to them,” he said. “(Firebirds forward Andrew) Poturalski’s ended my season two years in a row now; I know for me personally, this is a big series.

“I think it’s going to be a very good series and one that people should be excited to watch.”