Where Are They Now? Wade Dubielewicz
Authors Note: I know I said I was going to do an Islanders coach this week. I decided to push that back until I have all my research together. Today’s player was instrumental in the Islanders last playoff appearance. As the Islanders attempt to do the near-impossible and steal the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference, we will re-visit their last playoff birth.
Normally, a goaltender with 18 career wins doesn’t become a fan favorite. Wade Dubielewicz is an exception to say the very least.
After spending most of the season toiling in the American Hockey League, an injury to starting goaltender Rick DiPietro gave Dubielewicz a chance in the National Hockey League.
A 4-1-0 record for the 2006-07 season doesn’t tell his story. Winning four games in a week and leading your team on an improbable run to the Stanley Cup Playoffs; that’s the story.
A story, Islanders fans will always remember. How a ‘poke check’ turned a fan base on it’s head. All in a weekend’s work for Wade Dubielewicz.
The Islanders began the weekend with only 88 points, tied with Montreal with two games remaining each. Toronto held the eighth and final playoff spot with 89 points, but only had one game remaining in their season, against of all teams, the Montreal Canadiens. The math was simple, win two road games against Philadelphia and New Jersey with a third-string goaltender and have Toronto defeat Montreal. Easy enough right?
After a heart-pounding 3-2 shootout victory against the New York Rangers two days earlier, a trip to last place Philadelphia seemed just what the doctor ordered. Dubielewicz stole the Islanders two points against the Rangers, he would steal two more in Philadelphia. An early 3-0 lead made it a little easier, but Dubielewicz made 28 saves, including a late third period flurry, but at just 5’10 he stood tall allowing the Islanders to live another day.
Now, it was time to see how the Leafs and Canadiens would fare. In a game that is widely considered one of the most entertaining games in the modern era, the Leafs erased two 2-goal deficits and stunned the Canadiens 6-5, ending the hopes for Montreal, but keeping their own alive with an Islanders loss (overtime or regulation). The game was so important in Canada, an extra press-box was created to handle the immense media fray.
Going into Easter Sunday, Toronto was on 91 points and the Islanders on 90. It all came down to a matinee in New Jersey. Usually, goalies won’t play on the 2nd of a back-to-back. This wasn’t any ordinary game, a win ensured a playoff date with the top-seeded Buffalo Sabres. You play your best, and Dubielewicz, for the final week of the season, was as good as it gets.
As important the game was to the Islanders, it was as meaningless to the Devils. New Jersey already clinched the fourth seed and home ice advantage during the first round regardless of their result. Pundits will say the Islanders caught a break as Scott Clemmensen, not Martin Brodeur, got the start in goal.
The Islanders got off to a quick start.
Richard Park gave New York a 1-0 lead at 11:53 of the first, knocking in Jeff Tambellini's rebound in a scramble. The score brought loud cheers from the large contingent of Islanders fans on hand. The Continental Airlines Arena wasn’t exactly packed for the matinee, but the Islanders fans made a ton of noise throughout.
Park scored again at 7:51 of the third with a wrister from the high slot that sailed over Clemmensen's shoulder. It was 2-0 Islanders, fans in delirium, all was right in Islanders world.
Then John Madden woke up, and so did the Devils.
Present Islander and former Devil, Jay Pandolfo snapped a shot on goal that deflected off Madden’s stick for the first New Jersey goal. It came with just 4:13 remaining in the game. After some back and forth play, the Devils pulled Clemmensen for an extra attacker. Madden somehow found himself in front of Dubielewicz. After having his initial shot stopped, the puck found it’s way into the back of the net, or did it?
After a video review, it was confirmed the puck crossed the line with .1 seconds on the clock. In that moment, you felt the air come out of the Islanders and life went right back into Toronto.
The five-minute overtime came and went without incident, a shoot-out would decide the fate of the New York Islanders. Purists would have liked that game to end as a tie, fans enjoyed this ending far too much to have it any other way.
Miroslav Satan and Zach Parise traded goals in the 1st round and Victor Kozlov took his opportunity giving the Islanders a 2-1 advantage. Brian Gionta was up next for the Devils, Dubielewicz made a crucial save at that juncture keeping the lead at 2-1. Free-Agent rental Ryan Smyth, brought in from Edmonton for a possible playoff push, had a chance to punch the Islanders ticket. Clemmensen stood tall leaving it up to Sergei Brylin and Wade Dubielewicz.
Islanders fans will remember this moment simply as ‘the poke check.’ Brylin attempted to deke Dubielewicz but a simple poke of the puck ended Toronto’s season and extended the Islanders' into the playoffs.
The Isles would fall in five games to the Buffalo Sabres, losing four straight after stealing game one in Buffalo. Rick DiPietro came back from injury for the playoffs and the cinderella run of Wade Dubielewicz ended almost as quickly as it began.
Four wins in four games. Sounds very similar to another four-in-four in Islanders history.
Where Is He Now?
After the 2006-07 campaign. ‘Dubie,’ as fans would serenade him with during his time with the Islanders, was brought back for the 2007-08 season. In 20 games, he went 9-9-1-1 with a 2.70 GAA. After the season, coach Ted Nolan was fired and Dubielewicz left the club after declining a two-way contract offer. It was apparent that Dubielewicz wanted to be part of an NHL team and with two goaltenders on the roster with one-way contracts, he saw the writing on the wall that it was time for a change.
A move to the KHL in Russia was his next career objective. After a brief stay, a mutual decision allowed him to return to the NHL. The Islanders were waiting with open arms as yet another injury to DiPietro made the decision easy.
The Columbus Blue Jackets had other ideas, claiming him off re-entry waivers just two days after the Islanders agreed in principle with the goaltender. Stints in Columbus and Minnesota as a depth goaltender found him once again looking for a place to find consistent playing time. He was last seen playing in a German league in 2011.
Wade Dubielewicz will likely never repeat his success during the last week of the 2006-07 season. For anyone that is an Islanders fan, he will never need to.
The New York Islanders haven’t won a playoff game in almost five years. The last Isles goaltender to win a game in the playoffs?