EVERETT — Dustin Wolf had trouble sleeping last week Thursday, and it was with good reason.
Just a couple hours earlier, at the Everett Silvertips team dinner, he’d been told he would be making his WHL goaltending debut against the Kamloops Blazers the following night.
“I was waking up multiple times, thinking it was time to get up and ready to go,” Wolf said. “I was pretty pumped, but also pretty nervous at the same time.”
Wolf’s debut couldn’t have gone much better. The 2001-born netminder recorded 38 saves in a 3-1 Everett win over the Blazers to snap a four-game Tips losing streak and earn his first WHL win. He also added an assist for good measure.
“He played confident,” Tips head coach Dennis Williams said. “He was very calm and composed at the net front. He didn’t give up a lot of rebounds (and) he was square to the puck. He did a good job playing the puck when needed.”
Wolf’s debut was long anticipated by the Everett organization and its fans. Though described as a “first-round talent” by members of the Silvertips organization, the California-born Wolf was still on the board when the Tips took him in the fifth round of the 2016 bantam draft.
The main reason he was still there was because he was being heavily courted by the U.S. National Team Development Program and numerous NCAA Division I teams. So it was something of a coup when Everett signed him to a WHL standard player agreement last January as perhaps the heir apparent to two-time defending WHL Goaltender of the Year Carter Hart.
Then came the surgeries.
Wolf had surgery on both hips during the offseason and didn’t resume skating until just prior to training camp. He rejoined the Tips at practice when they returned from their Central Division road trip three weeks ago, and saw his first game action in eight months last Friday.
“Preparing was definitely hard coming off of an eight-month stretch of no game action whatsoever,” Wolf said. “I wasn’t sure what to expect. But at the end of the day you’re just trying to do your best and do whatever you can to help the team win.”
Wolf was just as good in his second game Sunday at Portland. The 5-foot-11, 150-pounder recorded 44 saves in a 3-2 win over the Winterhawks and added another assist.
Yes, the Tips’ rookie goalie is currently averaging a point per game.
“I think it’s pretty unheard of,” Wolf said with a grin. “It’s only two games in, but I definitely haven’t done it before.”
For his efforts Wolf was named the WHL and CHL Goaltender of the Week.
Everett (6-9-1, 13 points), which plays host to Prince George (5-7-2-2, 15 points) at 7:35 p.m. Friday, has already played six different goaltenders this season.
Two of the youngest have arguably been the best. Fifteen-year-old Blake Lyda fashioned an .896 save percentage and a 3.24 goals-against average in three games as an emergency call-up before being returned to his midget team last week. Then came Wolf’s performance last weekend.
Williams wants to avoid putting pressure on Wolf to feel like he has to duplicate his first two games every night.
“I’m not sure I want to give him (expectations) yet because again, obviously we’re ecstatic with the way he played and now it’s seeing him approach every day and every game in the same manner,” Williams said. “Not getting too high or too low, and that’s a thing with teams and with goalies. That constant even keel throughout it all. Every day is an opportunity to be evaluated and make yourself better and your teammates better, and I do think that’s how he’s going to approach each day.”
The Cougars enter Friday’s game having lost two straight.
Kody McDonald (nine goals, seven assists) and Jared Bethune (four goals, 12 assists) are Prince George’s top point producers. Dennis Cholowski has five goals and nine assists.
Tavin Gant is 4-3-2 with a .915 save percentage a 2.64 GAA in nine games. Rookie Taylor Gauthier is 1-4 with an .892 save percentage and a 2.97 GAA.
Following Friday’s game the Tips play host to Portland at 7:05 p.m. Saturday in the annual “Pink the Rink” game.
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