With a handful of NHL games under his belt this season, Dustin Wolf has gotten a good grasp onthe increased expectations that are placed on a goaltender at the top level.
Wolf is 1-2-0-1 in five appearances with the Flames so far this season, making three startsinhis most recent NHL recall on December 5.
Registeringjust one win in five games is not something Wolf has experienced much of in his professional career, but he’s approaching the overall process of becoming a full-time NHLer with poise and patience.
During his time with the big club, the 22-year-old has leaned on the veteran experience and mentorship from fellow Flames’ netminders Jacob Markstrom and Dan Vladar and, by doing so, has looked more and more comfortable between the pipes every time he’s out there.
“It was a great opportunity to step in and play some games against some really high-quality teams,” said Wolf, of his recent recall stint with the Flames. “It was a big learning experience for sure and, while the results didn’t come, it was rewarding to feel good in those games.
“So as long as I keep doing what I’m doing and trust my abilities, while learning along the way from the veteran guys like Marky and Vladdy, then the results will start to come.”
The Flames’ seventh-round selection (214th Overall) in 2019 picked up his second career NHL win on Dec.7 with a 30-save performance against the Carolina Hurricanes, and turned aside 39 shots against the defending Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights in hismost recent NHLstart on Dec.12.
Most Wranglers fans will be familiar with Wolf’s postgame routine following a win,where he waits at the blueline as teammate, Ilya Solovyov, performs a little ritual, of sorts, to christen the net with a water bottle before spraying Wolf with water as the two head off the ice.
It’s a unique routine, to say the least, and for those who’ve witnessed it over the last two seasonswith the Wranglers, it was a special moment to see the two doing it at the NHL level with the Flames.
It was special for Wolf, too.
“It was pretty cool, obviously, we’ve done it for three years now,so to get to do that at the highest level in the world is pretty special,” explained Wolf.“I think we will keep doing that with the Wranglers, but we might have to come up with something a little different in the NHL moving forward… but you know what, it was really cool to get to do that.”
The reigning AHL MVP and two-time AHL Goaltender of the Year has endeared himself to the local fan-base over the past fewseasons, and they are always eager to show their appreciation for the kid from Tustin, Calif.
The support from the fans is something Wolf certainly values and appreciates, and he wants to do all he can each game to give Flames and Wranglers fans cause to cheer – or more specifically – to howl!
“It’s something very special, playing in a Canadian market. The fans love their hockey with all they’ve got,” said Wolf.“It’s rewarding, but at the same time I want to give them a reason to cheer and stick behind me, as well. I’ve only played a few games with the Flames, and a bunch with the Wranglers, and at the end of the day I want to make them proud by doing my job and helping the team win games. If I can do that, I’ll be happy with my game, and I’m sure they’ll be happy, as well.”
Wolfhas made 14 starts this season with the Wranglers, sporting a 10-4-0-2 record with a 2.54 goals-against averagea 0.919 save-percentageand two shutouts.
While itcan be a tall task, at times, to balance the inherent emotionsduring the NHL recall process –both the highs and the lows –Wolf gives credit to his Wranglers’ teammates and coaching staff for making the transitiona seamless one.
“Having been with the team for three years, it’s easy to slide back in,” explained Wolf. “There’s a chemistry factor that’s already set in stone, so now its my job to come in, pick up where I left off and help the team win hockey games.”