By Dan Scifo for USA Hockey
Dustin Wolf is determined to be the best.
The goaltender certainly proved as much this season with the Everett Silvertips in the Western Hockey League, and recently was recognized nationally when the Tustin, California native became the first-ever California native to win the 2020 Dave Peterson Goalie of the Year Award from USA Hockey.
“This is obviously a huge honor, especially with USA Hockey,” Wolf said. “I strive to be the best in everything I do, and to be awarded something like this is a testament to that hard work and dedication, and the amazing team that we had. It’s definitely a special honor and one that I take pride in.”
The Dave Peterson Goalie of the Year Award is selected from a pool of goaltenders who play at the junior level each year. The award is named in honor of the late Dave Peterson, a passionate leader of goaltender development, who twice coached the U.S. Olympic Men’s team.
Prior winners include Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson, in addition to Cory Schneider, who started his career in Vancouver and has played the last seven seasons in New Jersey.
Wolf, the Western Hockey League’s Goaltender of the Year, went 34-10-2-0 in 46 games this season. He finished with a 1.88 goals-against average, a .935 save percentage and nine shutouts, leading the WHL in all four major statistical goaltending categories.
In 21 of 46 appearances, Wolf allowed one goal or fewer.
“Obviously, Dustin had a great season from an individual standpoint,” said Dennis Williams, Everett Silvertips head coach. “From the day camp started, he was set out and determined to continue to prove that he is a top echelon goaltender. He’s had that approach for the three years I’ve been able to coach him, but there was just something a little bit different this year. You could see his determination and focus.”
Wolf has appeared in 127 career WHL regular-season games, and he boasts an 88-31-4-2 record, along with a 1.85 goals-against average, a .934 save percentage and 20 shutouts. His 20 shutouts rank in a tie for fifth all-time in WHL history. Wolf’s career 1.85 goals-against average currently ranks second all-time in WHL history among goaltenders who have appeared in at least 100 games.
Wolf, who represented the U.S. at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup and the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship, is 5-4-1-0 in 11 WHL playoff games, with a 1.99 goals-against average, a .915 save percentage and one shutout.
Wolf continues to benefit alongside Williams at Everett, a place that also recently helped develop Philadelphia Flyers starter Carter Hart.
“He’s so mentally determined to be an NHL hockey player,” Williams said. “He’s a competitor unlike anybody I’ve ever met, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a warm-up drill, he doesn’t want the puck going in his net. Everyone wants to get drafted, and that’s one thing, but you want the ones who want to be NHL hockey players, and he’s focused and driven to be a National Hockey League player.”
Wolf will get his chance to be an NHL goaltender. The Everett standout was selected by the Calgary Flames in the seventh round, 214th overall, of the 2019 NHL Draft and recently signed with the organization.
“I’m obviously super excited,” Wolf said. “It’s pro hockey, so everything changes … your life changes because you move to a different place, you’re living on your own and you have to figure things out, not only in hockey, but in life.”
Williams believes that Wolf has a bright future at the professional level.
“I just think at the end of the day, we haven’t really seen how good of a goalie he’s going to be,” Williams said. “He’s set to prove people wrong day in and day out. He deserves to be in the top part of goalies in his age group, and he goes out every day to keep proving that.”
Wolf understands the learning curve will be steep, but he’s anxious for the opportunity to join the Flames’ organization.
“Calgary is a great spot to be in right now and I have a good relationship with their goaltending coaches,” Wolf said. “It just feels like a family … very similar to what I felt when I first joined Everett. They treat everybody like their own even when you’re not fully in their system yet. I’m very excited for the future and I’m hoping to be in Calgary one day, for sure.”