Getting His Pads Wet
By Corey Witt
(August 1) It's no secret who the two top netminders are on the
Islanders' depth chart. But for recently-signed collegiate product
Wade Dubielewicz, that doesn't matter. For the 24-year old
Dubielewicz, an opportunity to one-day play in the NHL is all he's
asking for -- and he doesn't expect it to be right away.
Dubielewicz, who was signed by the Islanders as an undrafted
collegiate free agent on May 25, recently completed a four-year
career at the University of Denver. There, he posted impressive
numbers, but suffered a setback at a critical time last season.
Followers of NCAA hockey will recognize Dubielewicz?s name,
particularly from the 2001-02 season when he was one of the elite
goaltenders on the collegiate level.
That season, he lead the Pioneers with a 20-4-0 record and an
impressive 1.72 goals against average. The goaltender was also named
a Hobey Baker finalist in 2002, college hockey?s equivalent to the
Heisman Trophy. Dubielewicz had several NHL teams offer him a non-
drafted free agent contract after that season, his junior year. But
he declined and returned to Denver for his senior season.
"I went back because I wanted to get a degree," said Dubielewicz. "We
also had some guys coming back and I thought we had a chance for the
National title. The bottom line was so I could get my degree in
But in a season that held so much promise for the Denver Pioneers,
Dubielewicz suffered a freak-injury that hampered what would be his
final year at college.
During a game against Michigan Tech on November 15, 2002, Dubielewicz
dove to make two pad saves on a Michigan Tech attacker. On the second
save, he stretched his hamstring and tried to bring his leg back too
fast, which forced the muscle to tear from the bone. Ironically,
Islanders prospect Bryan Perez then knocked in the loose puck, which
was the game-tying goal. Nevertheless, Dubielewicz was shelved for
The injury set both the Pioneers and Dubielewicz back in a big way.
Without their star netminder, Denver dropped in the National
rankings. At the time of the injury, Dubielewicz?s club was ranked
No. 3 in the nation. But after the injury, Denver slipped in the
rankings and failed to meet their pre-season expectations.
Although the hamstring injury put a major damper on his final season
at Denver, Dubielewicz still believes he made the right choice to
decline the contract options that were presented 12 months prior.
"I didn't regret the decision at all," Dubielewicz said. "I learned a
lot from it, actually. It's easy to look back and say, ?Maybe I
should have left,? but I'm happy with my situation now. I went back
to get my degree. And now if things don't work out, I have something
to fall back on."
With all of that now in the past, Dubielewicz is focusing on the
upcoming season. Like many Islanders prospects, he participated in
the recent informal conditioning camp workouts on Long Island.
"I got a good taste of what professional hockey is all about," said
Dubielewicz. "I was able to play with some great hockey players from
all around the world. I got to see how I match up against the other
players and it was a great time."
Even though he'll be penciled in behind Garth Snow and Rick DiPietro,
Dubielewicz doesn't mind his position on the organizational depth
chart. The first-year pro is positive when it comes to his abilities,
but he also knows where he fits when it comes to the bigger picture.
"I'm confident that I can play in the NHL one day," Dubielewicz
said. "But it's awesome to see a quality goaltender like Ricky play.
I'm sure practicing and competing against them [DiPietro and Snow] at
training camp will be great. It can make me a better goaltender. I?ll
be able to learn from them.
"I would love to play in Bridgeport this year. I can definitely play
there and hopefully I can get a chance. I just need to get some
experience. I feel I'm a sound goaltender."