A year ago February, goalie Alex Stalock was running hot. He had just made his NHL debut with the Sharks relieving Sharks goalie Antti Niemi for almost a whole 30 minutes of play, stopping 9 shots on goal and recording a 5-3 Win. Just three days later he would be back in Worcester playing with the Sharks AHL affiliate, also the Sharks, where he suffered a season ending injury as the blade of a player for the Manchester Monarchs severed a nerve behind his knee. Initial estimates had the goal tender returning to net in February 2012, but to the relief of dedicated fans, Stalock found his way back into a net a month ahead of schedule on Saturday night in Stockton California.
I made last minute plans to head to Stockton to see the ECHL Team (Stockton Thunder) take on the Las Vegas Wranglers due to a recent player acquisition who oddly enough was not Alex Stalock. As luck would have it though, the much buzzed about goalie within our Sharks community would make his return to the ice almost a year after his injury at the very game I was attending. As I arrived at Stockton Arena I knew that multiple die hard Sharks fans were on scene to observe Stalock (thank you Twitter) and for some to also watch their first ECHL game. – I shouldn’t lie, I was just there for the Teddy Bear Toss….what? Who wouldn’t drive two hours to throw a stuffed animal on a sheet of ice?….- Regardless, I had multiple reasons to be there haha!
Back on track. I decided to get a feel for the Stockton fans and took a walk around the arena. I was impressed with how dedicated they seemed to be and throughout the game I was continually impressed with their sportsmanship and love of the game. I decided to ask the season ticket holders next to me what they thought of Stalock…the response was that they thought he was OK, Stockton just needed a goalie and they assumed he was just what was available. I really hope that more Stockton fans understood the significance of the man in the net. I know Stockton’s media had covered it, but perhaps they hadn’t seen it, or perhaps they are compartmented hockey fans, as is common among smaller teams. What I mean by that, is that they simply care about just that league and only the players currently on the roster. Once they’ve moved up or down they don’t pay attention, likewise with where they come from. I did keep hearing about a player named Huxley on the Wranglers who everyone in Stockton dislikes due to the fact he was once a fan favorite of the Thunder who laterally moved to Las Vegas (in a very round about way mind you). Compartmented. I could go on about that for hours….so let’s refocus on Stalock.
I had heard of him and knew the situation, but for an “expert” take on the situation I turned to a twitter fan favorite @teamniemiclowe for her opinion. (watch for her fan bio on Friday!) She had this to say of Stalock’s performance “He seems to be playing well, but not really being tested. It’s good they aren’t really peppering him, and he appears to not be favoring either side, so that’s good!” I observed him throughout the game, sitting just behind him to his left and agreed with my fan insider. Stalock appeared confident and not shaken when he let goals in. Of the 29 of shots on goal, he stopped 24, making some beautiful saves, but also let in 5. In a post game interview, Stalock had this to say
“…I think it was kind of a game to go out and ya know, really set the bar and see where you’re at…and uh obviously they had some chances and they capitalized on them…and ya know for a first game I’ll take it. Ya know they had some 5 on 3 and ya know some power play stuff “.
I am not a goalie expert but here is my take on Stalock at this point. It is evident that he is a bit rusty and will need more time in net. From what I could gather about the Wranglers, they are a worthy opponent and challenging for other ECHL teams to face. While the Thunder came out on top, it was a complete team effort and could have had a very different outcome had it been dependent on Stalock alone. He will need some time in Stockton to regain his confidence before moving back into the AHL, as teams in the A will only be tougher and harder to stop than the Wranglers. His flexibility seems decent and he didn’t hesitate to go for pucks as they came towards him. At this point it will be a question of regaining trust in his own coordination and possibly shaking off any nervousness he may have in his ability following the accident that could have been a career ender last season.
For some great footage of Stalock in action in Stockton on Saturday night CLICK HERE and check out @TeamNiemiClowe’s videos!
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