Monday, August 2, 2010

Stalock's Rise to NHL Superstardom Delayed

Alex Stalock is my favorite hockey player. His propensity to play the puck can be maddening at times, but he's good enough at it that coaches play tapes of him puckhandling at instructional goalie camps. And when he gets hot - like when he stopped 155 of 158 shots in a 5 game stretch that led UMD to its first Broadmoor Trophy in 24 years in 2009 - there is no one I'd rather have between the pipes.

After the 2008-09 season, Stalock left UMD, to sign with the San Jose Sharks, who drafted him in the fourth round in 2005. His .910 career save percentage, 2.48 GAA, and nine shutouts are all UMD records.

In his first year with the Sharks AHL affiliate in Worcester, he continued to flourish, setting the AHL record for most wins by a rookie goaltender (39) on his way to starting the AHL All-Star Game and being named Team MVP and Rookie of the Year. After a such a successful season, it looked like he was shaping up to be the Sharks goalie of the future.

The path to the NHL looked even clearer for Stalock after the Sharks released their starting goalie, Evgeni Nabokov after yet another disappointing early exit in the Western Conference Playoffs. My elation upon hearing this news, however, turned out to be premature.  In the weeks that followed the Sharks went out and signed two Finnish goalies to fill Nabokov's skates, Antti Niemi from the reigning champion Blackhawks and Antero Niittymaki from the Lightning.

So for now it seems like Stalock will be stuck in Worcester for another season, piling up accolades and highlights until he gets his chance.