Dustin Wolf leaves Wranglers teammates raving about first round playoff performance

How good was Wolf against the Roadrunners? Well, there was probably nobody better in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs

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Matthew Coronato described it as “unreal.”

Jakob Pelletier said “this guy is nuts.”

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To a man, Dustin Wolf’s Calgary Wranglers teammates were blown away by the way he turned away shot after shot in their first-round sweep of the Tucson Roadrunners last weekend.

And it’s not exactly a secret that Wolf seems to stop just about everything that’s thrown at him when he’s with the Wranglers, but even by his own standards the two performances he put in against the Roadrunners were something special.

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“The first game especially, I don’t know, it’s a great feeling on the bench knowing how good he was playing and how confident we are in him,” Coronato said Wednesday. “It was the same in Game 2, I think he’s got a lot of confidence moving forward and the team’s got a lot of confidence in him.”

Wolf was an X-Factor in the Wranglers series win over the Roadrunners, and while they’re considered the underdog again heading into their Round 2 matchup with the Coachella Valley Firebirds that starts Friday at the Saddledome, his presence evens the scales a little bit.

This is a goaltender, after all, who was the AHL’s goaltender of the year for two straight seasons in 2021-22 and 2022-23 and was the league’s Most Valuable Player last year, as well.

He won’t be in contention for those awards this season, but that’s mostly because he spent so long with the Calgary Flames. He played in 17 games for the NHL club this year, winning seven times and posting a 3.16 goals-against-average and a .893 save percentage.

When Dan Vladar’s season ended early, Wolf was also with the Flames for the final month or so of their campaign and his play definitely improved towards the end of that stretch.

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He’s carrying the lessons he’s learned into this playoff run with the Wranglers and so far that’s paying off spectacularly.

“I mean, when you get an extended period of time with the best players in the world you can find some areas where improvement is needed and I think that’s exactly what happened,” Wolf said Wednesday morning. “I started to find my groove there towards the end of the season and obviously felt really good in the two games we played in Tucson. Now, it’s just about keeping those things in check and getting ready for Friday.”

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How good was Wolf against the Roadrunners? Well, there was probably nobody better in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs.

His .966 save percentage was the best anyone posted in the opening round and he stopped 86 of the 89 shots he faced.

The 23-year-old was especially spectacular in Game 1 when he posted a 46-save shutout.

“It’s unbelievable. We were on the bench, especially on the PK, I was on the bench and I was like, ‘Wow, this guy is nuts’, “ Pelletier said. “The way he was moving in the crease, you’re not scared — you know he’s going to be there and he’s going to touch the puck or make a save. For us, it’s huge that we know he can make some huge stops.”

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The Wranglers are likely going to need a few of those stops against the Firebirds, who eliminated them from the playoffs last season and scored an AHL-leading 252 goals in the regular season.

They score by committee and won six of eight head-to-head games with the Wranglers this season, although it’s worth noting that the Calgary crew saw a constant stream of guys getting called up to the NHL. Several of those guys are back now, so past performances only count for so much.

And the Wranglers are feeling confident after the way they dispatched the Roadrunners.

And with Wolf in net, who wouldn’t be feeling like you’ve got a chance to exact a little revenge for last year’s playoff defeat?

“They’re a good club over there,” Wolf said. “They’re coached well, they have good players and they’re deep and we’ve had some good games against them in the last couple years. They got the best of us last year and now we’ve got an opportunity to get it back.”

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