Dustin Wolf, who grew up in Morgan Hill, is a goalie for the NHL's Calgary Flames. Photo: Christopher Mast/NHLI via Getty Images

As a young boy, Gilroy native Dustin Wolf went to San Jose Sharks games with his parents. On April 9, Wolf started an NHL game at goalie in the same building for the first time. Playing for the Calgary Flames, Wolf backstopped his team to a 3-2 overtime win against the Sharks at the SAP Center in San Jose.

Wolf’s parents were Sharks season ticket holders back in the day and a young boy with NHL dreams envisioned being on the ice. The family moved from Morgan Hill to southern California when he was 10. Wolf’s career has included stops at Everett, Washington in the Western Hockey League and, after signing with Calgary, playing with the team’s AHL affiliate, which was located in Stockton and later was moved also to Calgary.

Dreams come true. In front of a Morgan Hill-based contingent of relatives, including his aunt, uncle and grandmother, Wolf shined in the NHL spotlight. His parents were watching intently from the Seattle area, where they now live.

“It means the world to me,” Wolf said, during a post-game interview on Sportsnet. “It’s a dream come true to be able to take part in a game here. And hopefully many more.”

The Sharks built a 2-0 lead early in the second period but the Flames rallied back to tie the contest by the end of that stanza. Neither team scored in the third period and the game advanced to overtime. At 2:58 of the extra period, Calgary’s Andrei Kuzmenko scored on a wrister and Wolf celebrated along with his teammates. 

Wolf saved 20 of 22 shots on the night, an impressive .909 percentage. That included allowing no power play goals during four San Jose man-advantage opportunities. The announced crowd at the SAP Center was 11,031, with a small contingent rooting for Calgary.

“There was not too much red in the crowd, so it was pretty easy to find them,” Wolf told reporters in San Jose. “Coming home is always super enjoyable, but the goal on the trip is to get wins. And to get a win in front of my family, it’s pretty special.”

Wolf had played at the SAP Center in the past, although that was with the AHL’s Stockton team. Back in the day, the Sharks’ AHL team, the Barracuda, held their home games at the SAP Center. Wolf won all four of those starts. But this was the real deal, the NHL.

“I’m sure it means a lot to Wolf,” Flames coach Ryan Huska said. “The one nice thing for him is he’s played this building a lot over the years. He’s very familiar with this area, so it’s good to get him back in. I know he’s excited. He was one of the first guys here at the rink this morning.”

Wolf, drafted in 2019, has been labeled Calgary’s “goalie of the future.” His stellar resume includes twice being named goaltender of the year in the Western Hockey League and once goalie of the year for the entire Canadian Hockey League. 

He has also twice represented the U.S. at the World Junior Hockey Championship, winning a gold medal in 2021. 

As a professional, Wolf is the AHL’s reigning MVP and two-time goaltender of the year. In early February, he represented his team in the AHL All-Star Game, which took place at the TechCU Arena in San Jose.

Wolf’s spot starts in the NHL have mostly come when he could replace Calgary’s Jacob Markstrom or Dan Vladar if either was injured. Markstrom suffered an injury on March 12 and Wolf was immediately called up and played in relief of Vladar later that night against Colorado. He was then given three consecutive starts and many assumed that would be the end of his latest NHL stay. However, Vladar was then shut down for the season for hip surgery and now Wolf will share the net with Markstrom until season’s end. 

Wolf, who turns 23 on April 16, had made two previous starts against the Sharks in his career, but both of those came in Calgary. He earned his first NHL win against San Jose at the end of last season. Wolf, patient with opportunities, knows trades, contracts and injuries may accelerate or delay his chances. 

Though he has clearly stated his excitement at being at the NHL level and hoping to stay, he has remained patient. In the last month of the current season, he is taking advantage of his chances. The future may well soon see him as part of the goalie tandem for Calgary, perhaps as early as the coming season this fall.

“They (the Flames’ players) care for each other, that’s the thing, so they know when there’s an important night for someone — and this was one, for sure, for Wolfie,” said Huska, during his post-game interview. “I thought he was good tonight. He didn’t get a lot of work in the second or third period, which I was happy with. But I thought when he had to make some saves, he did a good job. He looked calm and composed tonight.”

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