When the Wranglers played their first home game in October, I made a point to pay special attention to player introductions. I wondered who would get the loudest reception at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
It wasn’t a shock when most of the applause went to the man wearing the pads, Dustin Wolf. He was coming off a stellar first-year campaign with the Stockton Heat, picking up both Rookie of the Year and Goalie of the Year honours.
Numbers aside, Wolf’s story is relatable, especially for any kid who got picked last at recess or during gym class. He sat at the 2019 NHL draft waiting to be called while dealing with whispers of him being undersized for the professional game despite his outstanding numbers in junior. He had to hear 213 names before “Dustin Wolf” was read out by the Flames.
Wolf played his 100th AHL game this weekend. He entered the contest versus San Diego leading the league in every goaltending category: wins, GAA, SV%, and shutouts. What fans see on a nightly basis is an uber-focused goalie. His rebound control is impeccable. And if he lets in a goal, he doesn’t dwell on it. Instead, he quickly lines up to make his next save and moves on.
Like any goalie, he’s got his routines. He usually goes out on the bench about 40 minutes before the pre-game warmup. He’s listening to music, arms folded, and his eyes are firmly focused on the ice (the only time I saw him look up for an extended time was during the World Juniors when Canada versus the USA was playing on the Flames Energy Board).
After a win, Wolf and defenseman Ilya Solovyov have a special net christening following their salute of the Herd. Watch for it next time you’re at the ‘Dome. Wolf stands at the blueline while Solovyov sprays the blue paint with water from Wolf’s bottle.
(Photo by David Moll / Calgary Wranglers).
Outside of the rink, anytime a conversation starts about the Wranglers, everyone asks about Wolf. Is he the real deal? Can he make the jump to the NHL? Should Flames fans be excited? The answer to all of those questions is yes. Wolf is well on his way to being named Goalie of the Year again, and I think it’s fair to say he’s the front-runner for league MVP. Head coach Mitch Love doesn’t bat an eyelash when he says Wolf has been his squad’s most important player this season. The bench boss, who has known Wolf since his junior days with the Everett Silvertips, credits the netminder’s drive and durability for bringing him this far in his professional career.
Wolf’s already a household name in Calgary, and I, along with every Wranglers fan, can’t wait to see what he can do in the Calder Cup playoffs.
Odds and ends:
We spotted a rare jersey at last Friday’s game. A fan was wearing a black Saint John Flames No. 15 with St. Louis on the back. From the broadcast booth, it looked like a Flames Blasty, but after further investigation, we saw the AHL patch. The current Habs bench boss spent parts of three seasons with the Saint John Flames in the late 1990s. An honourable mention in our jersey spotting goes to a Roman Turek Blasty.
The home portion of the Wranglers’ inaugural regular season draws to a close this week with a pair versus the Henderson Silver Knights. It’ll be a while until the Wranglers are back home — potentially a month’s wait. If they finish first in the Pacific Division, they will earn a bye to the second round of the post-season. But with Coachella hot on their tail, their meeting with the Firebirds in early April will likely decide first and second place.