The goalie position in hockey has always fascinated me.

It seems to be the most “make or break” position in all of sports. A goalie is the last line of defense and can be the sole reason a team wins or loses on a given night. And to top it all off, most teams only carry two on their roster, so it comes with plenty of pressure.

As a result, getting your crease in order is paramount to success in today’s NHL. And if you get lucky enough to find a tandem, you do all you can to lock it down for as long as possible.

It’s a search that the Dallas Stars navigated for quite a while. But after years of seeking, they might have struck gold.

When the Stars traded up to draft Jake Oettinger 26th overall in 2017, he was quickly tabbed the franchise goalie of the future. Dallas was desperate for a homegrown netminder after years of signing and trading for veteran goalies, and Oettinger fit the bill perfectly.

Then in 2022, they needed a competent backup to ease the load on a second-year Oettinger. Braden Holtby and Anton Khudobin had been shut down for the season due to injuries, leaving a sizable hole in the Stars’ backup spot.

Enter Scott Wedgewood on March 20, 2022 in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes. The journeyman backup came to Dallas and filled the void nicely as the team embarked on a playoff push.

Fast forward two and a half seasons and the duo is flourishing.

“I love Wedgie,” Oettinger said. “He’s such a good guy, first of all. He supports me so much and vice versa. It’s nice when you have someone that you can lean on that’s going through the same things you are and deals with the same stuff I do. He’s kind of the only one that really knows what it’s like in there. I feel like we’ve supported each other so well.”

The feeling is mutual.

“First off, we get along super well,” Wedgewood said. “We both have a real enjoyment for golf, and obviously we’re fans of our position. Both of our games are so different, it’s enjoyable watching each other.”

For the past 178 games, the two have fed off of each other and taken their respective games to new heights. As a result, they have become the longest serving tandem in Dallas history since Andy Moog and Darcy Wakaluk, who backstopped the team’s first three seasons in Texas.

Oettinger has come into his own as a top-tier goaltender in the NHL. After making his debut in the 2020 bubble, he served as the backup in the shortened 2020-21 season. And after earning another call-up early in the 2021-22 campaign, he quickly seized the starting role.

Wedgewood has been on the Dallas bench for most of Oettinger’s career. He’s had a front row seat to Oettinger’s transformation into one of the NHL’s top young netminders.

“You’ve got a goaltender that is probably going to be top-five for his whole career when it’s all said and done,” Wedgewood said of his goalie partner. “He’ll be the first one to be humble about it. As a goalie watching the game, what he does is elite for his age and he’s only going to get better.”

The duo has also picked up new skills from each other in practice. Along with the help of goaltending coach Jeff Reese, they have been able to take pieces of each other’s games and mold them into their own. Whether it’s Wedgewood learning how to block better or Oettinger practicing a more aggressive style, the time spent together has been beneficial.

“All the goalie stuff we do with Reeser, it makes the unit so much more fun,” Oettinger said. “I think all three of us have a great relationship with each other. It’s super fun coming to the rink and having Wedgie as one of my closest friends on the team as well as my goalie partner is pretty great.”

But in every team’s crease, there is a potential for conflict. After all, the goal of any professional athlete is to play as much as possible, but with only one starting job available, it can be difficult for teams to keep a tandem together.

That doesn’t seem to be the case in Dallas, though. Both goalies understand and have fully embraced their roles.

“One thing I mentioned when I first got here was that I didn’t want his starting job,” Wedgewood said. “He was obviously trending to top-tier, and I think it just kind of solidified that he had a partner here that can give him some rest, win the team some games, and not have to feel all the pressure.”

Prior to arriving in Dallas, Wedgewood had played for four other NHL franchises (New Jersey and Arizona twice each, Buffalo and Tampa Bay). Now, at the age of 31 along with his wife and newborn daughter, the goalie feels at home in Texas and thinks he’s playing the best hockey of his career, and the numbers back it up.

Wedgewood has pocketed a career-high 16 wins this season. At a record of 16-6-5 and his second straight season with a GAA under 2.90, the goaltender is fitting into his role nicely.

That includes minding the crease as the starter from time to time. When Oettinger was sidelined for a month with an injury in December, Wedgewood responded with a 7-3-2 record as the fill-in starter. That could have been an unraveling point for a number of NHL teams, but Wedgewood shouldered the load and gave the team a chance to win nightly through a demanding part of the schedule. Having two goalies that can step up and compete as the starter for extended periods can be a rarity in today’s NHL.

“I think it’s a luxury to the entire organization,” Wedgewood said. “I think I was a luxury three for a lot of my career. I could get games in and play at an elite level in the American League and things like that. But I finally got my shot and kind of stepped up. Now I’m proving that I can be an option to play a good amount of games.”

Oettinger shares a similar sentiment. The 25-year-old is in the midst of his third straight season with 30+ wins, a feat achieved by only two other goalies in Dallas history (Ed Belfour and Marty Turco).

He’s currently on a five-game win streak that includes a .942 save percentage, 1.40 GAA and a shutout. He allowed two or fewer goals in all five wins, which marks a season-long stretch. After offseason surgery and a mid-season injury, Oettinger is starting to look like his regular self again with the Stanley Cup Playoffs in sight. The extra rest (he’s on pace to play around 10 fewer games than last season) should be an added bonus.

All in all, the team is on a seven-game win streak. They’ve brought their goals against per game down to 2.62 since the All-Star Break, which is fourth-best in the NHL.

“I think every night we go onto the ice as a group expecting to win,” Wedgewood said. “That’s one thing I didn’t really have in the NHL for my first couple of seasons. I was on teams that never really finished above third or fourth to last in the NHL. But now with the roster, personnel, the confidence we have in ourselves, leads us to show up expecting to win. That’s a top-to-bottom thing from management to the team on the ice."

“We push each other really hard and know that we have a great chance to win when either of us is in net,” added Oettinger. “I’m sure that’s a good feeling for the players as well. The consistency we’ve brought over the last two and a half years has been really good, and we want to be a big piece of this team.”

The Stars have qualified for the playoffs in three straight seasons and sit one point out of first in the NHL. As the race for a top seed and the Presidents’ Trophy continues, the goaltending should remain a key cog both in the present and (hopefully) the future.

“We were joking the other day about my contract being up this year and his being up next year,” Wedgewood added. “He said, ‘Dude, you aren’t going anywhere. I’ve never had a partner for an extended period of time and we both get along.’

“I was joking with him that he would have to take a pay cut,” he added with a laugh.

The future at the position seems chock-full of potential, but in the here and now, the two have built a lasting friendship centered around a desire to grow and succeed. The hope is that desire will carry the Stars through a long spring of playoff hockey.

“You know how important goaltending is, and just to have a solid rock back there is super important,” Oettinger said. “Going into every game, we feel like we have a slight edge in the crease. It’s up to us to give our team that advantage. If we play great here and the playoffs, this team will be really tough to beat.”

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.