The Michigan Gray Wolves have historically succeeded on the strength of their defense and the sure-handed goaltending of Dirk “The Bear” Lundquist. As the Wolves begin their quest to dethrone the Anchorage Igloos atop the Western division, they came out firing on all cylinders, as Lundquist became the first netminder in SHL history to open the season with back-to-back shutouts.
“All hail The Bear!” crowed Wolves D “Mad Max” Madison. “We like to talk about how nothing gets past him, but literally, nothing is getting past him right now.”
The Wolves opened the season on the road against the Saskatchewan Shockers, a team widely perceived as a rising power. Lundquist, however, barely broke a sweat in turning aside 21 Saskatchewan shots, and LW Scot Davenport’s short-handed goal stood up as the lone tally in a 1-0 Michigan win.
On Tuesday, the Wolves traveled up north to face the rival Anchorage Igloos at Arctic Circle Arena. Coming off of a disappointing tie against Dakota to open the season, the Igloos were determined to make a statement. But they ran into a brick wall in the crease, as Lundquist stopped 25 Igloos blasts and C Warren Marlow banged home a slapshot from the slot in the second period to give the Wolves another 1-0 victory.
Lundquist’s streak came to an end during Thursday’s home opener against Saskatchewan, when Shockers D Chris Oflyng scored on a power play 1 minute and 41 seconds into the opening period. Fortunately, the Wolves’ offense showed up this time in the form of four third-period goals, and Michigan rolled to a 6-2 rout.
“Talk about taking your game to the next level,” said Michigan C Hunter Bailes. “Some of the saves he makes, I don’t understand how he does it. He’s like Inspector Gadget, stretching out his arms and legs further than humanly possible.”
Lundquist, meanwhile, said that the Wolves’ defense deserved the real credit. “As a goalie, the fewer high-danger shots you face, the better you look,” Lundquist told reporters. “Our D is just incredible. They’re really strong at protecting the home-plate area and clearing out in front of the crease, and they’re all over the ice blocking shots and denying good angles. They make things easy for me.”
Michigan coach Ron Wright praised Lundquist’s torrid start, but was quick to point out that his netminder’s brilliance obscured the team’s early struggles on offense. The Wolves averaged a mere 1.3 goals per game while stumbling through an uninspired preseason, and Wright called on his team to improve.
“The Bear is the best goalie in the league, no doubt, but he’s not superhuman,” Wright told reporters. “If we’re counting on winning every game 1-0, this season isn’t going to go well for us. As great as Lundquist is, I think we tend to use him as a security blanket sometimes. We need more games like [Thursday’s]. We need to focus on sharpening our offensive game, so that we’re not relying on The Bear to be perfect.”