EVERETT — With Dustin Wolf away with Team USA at the World Junior Championships, the Everett Silvertips will rely upon the other two prongs of their American goalie trident in his absence.
Nineteen-year-old netminder Keegan Karki and 16-year-old Braden Holt will be Everett’s goalie tandem as Wolf is away on international duty.
Losing Wolf and his excellence seemingly night after night will be missed, but there’s no panic on Everett’s end whatsoever. Karki will take over the reins as the Silvertips’ starter until Wolf returns.
“Absolutely (we’re confident),” Silvertips head coach Dennis Williams said. “I have no issues with Keegan being in net.”
Wolf, a seventh-round pick by the Calgary Flames in the 2019 NHL draft, earned a spot on USA Hockey’s radar after leading the WHL in almost every statistical category last year. The 2001-born goaltender has been just as good in his second year as Everett’s full-time starter in net, with a .941 save percentage and five shutouts, both of which lead the league.
Karki, who has backed up Wolf this season, hasn’t been a liability by any means in his nine games this season, posting a 2.63 goals-against average, a .910 save percentage and a 6-0-1 record.
The Sartell, Minnesota, native was in net for Everett’s 4-3 shootout win over Spokane on Sunday, the Silveritps’ first game without Wolf. The Tustin, California, native will miss at least eight games while away at the 2020 World Junior Championships in the Czech Republic, which start on Dec. 26 and end on Jan. 5.
“Me and Wolfie are really good buddies, so shoutout to him,” Karki said. “It’s really huge for him, a really huge opportunity.”
The lack of starts has been a challenge for Karki, who has solely been a starter for the entirety of his young hockey career to this point, but he said he’s done his best to adapt to the situation.
“Part of being a pro is always being ready for your chance and always being ready for your opportunity,” Karki said. “You owe your team the opportunity to be ready every day.”
Particularly, Karki said his day-to-day routines have been ramped up so he feels prepared in the limited action he’s received this season.
Karki is eager to see more time in the crease in December and early January.
“I’m really excited,” Karki said of the upcoming stretch. “Especially when you’re getting just one game a weekend, it’s really hard to find consistency and fine-tune some things you might want to get back.”
The situation has been even more extreme for Holt, who hasn’t played at all this season. The rookie goaltender has been in a suit and tie in the press box as a healthy scratch for the vast majority of games this season as Wolf and Karki have handled the goaltending duties.
The Bozeman, Montana, native will be relied upon as Karki’s backup while Wolf is away.
The Silvertips see Holt, a 12th-round pick in the 2018 Western Hockey League bantam draft, as the organization’s goaltender of the future, so they’ll be eager to see how he handles the crease as a 16-year-old.
Like Karki, Holt is excited to see his role increase while Wolf is away at World Juniors.
“It’s really nice because having only two goalies here gives me that time to practice and get in game shape,” Holt said. “Just taking more shots is really nice and getting back into that experience, especially being really young, is really important.”
Williams compared this situation to when Carter Hart went to World Juniors with Team Canada in 2018 and Wolf filled in as a 16-year-old.
Part of the reason the organization was so confident in Wolf taking over in net the following season was that stretch during World Juniors, in which Wolf went 7-4-0 with a 2.41 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage.
This situation is different for Karki, who is a year older than Wolf as a 2000-born.
But it’s similar in that Everett doesn’t expect its goaltending to plummet with Wolf off representing the United States.
“Like I said to him, he’s a great goalie and a great teammate and he knew c0ming in that this would be his opportunity to play this strech of games coming up,” Williams said. “I think he’s ready for the challenge and the workload and he’ll continue to do a great job for us.”