Not many teams are as blessed as the Chicago Wolves in the goaltending department. This season, three different goalies who could each qualify as a starter for a lot of American Hockey League teams have had shared occupation of the net for head coach Rocky Thompson’s group.
When the season began, the Wolves looked set in goal with Maxime Lagace and Oscar Dansk as their netminding tandem. But when the Vegas Golden Knights had both of their starters sidelined with injuries in October, both Lagace and Dansk saw time as call-ups. Dansk even made a little bit of history during his brief stint in Vegas, when he recorded the franchise’s first shutout, in a 7-0 victory against the Colorado Avalanche on Oct. 28.
But when Lagace and Dansk were needed in Vegas, the Wolves were fortunate enough to receive Kasimir Kaskisuo as a loan from the Toronto Marlies. And Kaskisuo, who spent two years playing college hockey for the University of Minnesota-Duluth, has seized his opportunity with the Wolves since he arrived in Chicago.
In 28 games as a member of the Wolves, Kaskisuo has posted a 13-13 record in conjunction with an impressive 2.38 goals against average and a .914 save percentage.
Kaskisuo, who is large in stature at 6-foot-3, says he can learn something by watching any goaltender who is in the NHL. But for him, Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens is, from a technical standpoint, the best in the business.
“I don’t think there is anyone in the NHL who is not doing something that I would want to do. But Carey Price is one guy I think who is just so technically sound. So you wanna follow some of the things that those guys are doing and see if you can get something from them that you can use,” he said.
Wolves goaltending coach Stan Dubicki, who has been in the same role with the team since 2012, has worked with many goalies, some of whom have gone on to establish themselves in the NHL. Jake Allen and Eddie Lack, for instance are now honing their craft at the highest level. And Dubicki wants the current Wolves netminders to follow the same path.
“I want to see all these guys to play in the NHL, and I want them to win a championship here,” said Dubicki about the trio of Wolves goalies, who he believes have each been impressive all season.
“I think they’ve done an unbelievable job. Kas has played fantastic all year, Oscar coming in, and Max being up in Vegas. As a goalie coach, I couldn’t ask for a better situation with these guys. On and off the ice, unbelievable,” he added.
In order to make sure everyone in the organization is on the same page, especially since guys move up and down for various reasons, Dubicki acknowledged how important it is for him to stay in communication with the other goalie coaches.
“I make sure I always keep in contact with the Vegas goalie coach [David Prior], and the Marlies goalie coach Pierre Greco. They have a great work ethic, and the goalies are great with each other, too, which is a good situation because they’re always pushing each other,” he said.
“He’s always there for me if he notices any bad habits in my game. Or even just to tell me to keep going and stay focused. He’s a great coach to have and he’s helped my game a lot,” said Oscar Dansk, who is still yet to lose a game in regulation with the Wolves and sports a sparkling record of 7-0-1.
Perhaps some of the toughest decisions that Rocky Thompson has had to make this season involve his goalies, and which one he should start, since each gives the team a chance to win on any given night.
A great problem to have.