With change comes opportunity.
That has been the story in Kamloops this season where between the pipes 18-year-old netminder Dylan Ernst has assumed the top job duties following the graduation of Dylan Garand to the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack.
Playing the understudy to Garand a year ago, it was a campaign in which through 24 appearances he found the win column 14 times and saw a short-lived run as the starter when Garand was sidelined by injury.
“It was really big for my development and my confidence,” Ernst told Chad Klassen of CFJC Today Kamloops. “I went in there (last year) and played my best. I do have more to show, but it was huge for my development. I got to see what it is like as a starter for basically the first time in my whole career.”
Ernst has now carried over that strong play into the new campaign where through 15 games as the go-to option in the Kamloops crease the budding netminder has impressed in coming up with nine wins alongside a .918 save percentage and 2.38 goals-against average to ranks amongst the league’s best.
“It is really exciting. I just really want to show the city of Kamloops what I can do as a starting goalie,” Ernst added. “It is going to be really good this year. It is amazing. There are so many other people who would kill to be in my shoes so I just want to make the most of it and have the best year I can possibly have.”
Playing arguably the most important position on a squad with aspirations of CHL supremacy – the Blazers will play host to the 2023 Memorial Cup presented by Kia come June – Ernst has also shown an intriguing ability to succeed under pressure.
Adding to that pressure is that, in filling in for Garand, Ernst has stepped in for one of the top goaltenders to have suited up for the Blazers. In all, through part of five seasons and 135 regular season games with Kamloops, Garand won a franchise-record 89 contests before his junior career culminated with CHL Goaltender of the Year recognition in 2021-22 when he won 34 of 45 games and posted a .925 save percentage with a 2.16 goals-against average.
Originally chosen by Kamloops 28th overall in the 2019 WHL Draft, Ernst has now carried on the torch for the Blazers as he has made a successful transition from understudy to starter.
“I think we have seen a lot of growth (with Ernst),” Blazers head coach Shaun Clouston added. “He went to the Carolina Hurricanes (development) camp and performed very well and that was real positive feedback. He is a talented young goaltender. There is a lot of potential there.”