Hi, My Name Is … Alex Stalock

Hi, My Name is ... appears weekly on NHL FanHouse. We will spotlight future NHL prospects currently making a name for themselves in college hockey. Where applicable, the players' draft rights will be listed. Check back every Tuesday at 8AM ET. Please post in the comments section if you have a nomination, or if you feel the author really blew it this week.

Mobile goaltenders can drive fans and coaches absolutely nuts. They're athletic enough to make the saves that wow you, but if they get too keen on playing the puck, it can end up in the back of your net before you know it.

For Minnesota-Duluth junior Alex Stalock (NHL rights: San Jose), the nightmare almost became a reality again Saturday. After Wisconsin beat UMD 3-1 on Friday, the Bulldogs needed a win to keep pace with the logjam atop the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. A win would put them into a tie for fourth place, while a loss could drop them as low as eighth.

A bit less than halfway through the first period, Stalock ranged to his right to play a loose puck. Any UMD fan will tell you he is prone to doing this, but in this case, it almost burned the Bulldogs in a big way. Stalock ran into Wisconsin forward Andy Bohmbach and fell to the ice. The puck, meanwhile, found its way to Badger Tom Gorowsky, who was standing between the faceoff circles right in front of the net.

Somehow, Gorowsky missed. I'm not exactly sure how. Neither is Stalock, who told Todd Milewski of The Capital Times Gorowsky's "probably having nightmares about that".

Why nightmares? Because a third-period goal was enough to lift UMD to a 1-0 win, thanks to 33 saves from Stalock and a critical miss from Gorowsky.

Stalock doesn't make a habit out of living on the edge like that. Instead, he makes a habit out of staying smart with the puck, being one of college hockey's best athletes, and finding ways to keep the puck out of the net. Whenever the Sharks decide to bring Stalock into their organization, they'll be taking in one of the truly unique talents in hockey. He's not the fundamentally-sound type. Instead, he's such a good athlete that he gets to pucks most goalies couldn't dream of stopping.

It's one thing to use your stick to stop a dump-in behind the net. It's another to be unafraid to skate to the corner to run down a loose puck and try to start a breakout. Has Stalock been burned for his wandering? Sure, but not as much as you may think. Is a pro coach likely to try to keep him even closer to the net? Yes, but beware how short of a leash you try to put on him.

To get a fan's perspective on watching a goalie as "unorthodox" as Stalock, I checked in with Donna Carpenter, author of the irreverent Runnin' With The Dogs blog.

There's no goalie in college hockey like Alex Stalock; whether that's a good or bad thing is a matter of personal opinion. I suppose some people might be content with the routine kick saves and the occasional flash of the glove, that's ok. That's why there's vanilla ice cream for some, and Chunky Monkey for others. Al is Pandora's Box in a Bulldog sweater, with forward, defenseman, goalie, and welter-weight boxer all clamoring to get free and wreak havoc on the world. I could list 3 or 4 times in the month of January alone where I wanted to beat him with something sharp, but Bruce only gave me a paragraph and I'm not that masochistic. Instead I'll focus on the 258 saves he DID make in January, with numerous other plays he made that aren't credited as saves but certainly prevented goals. He has two shutouts this month alone. For awhile, the square root of his GAA was greater than his GAA. Let me ask you folks out there: would you rather have a goalie who stayed in the net, or a goalie at the top of the toughest league in the country in individual statistics? All the fans, opponents, refs, pundits and haters out there need to just get over themselves and realize that Al's crazy style of goaltending is kicking the crap out of the butterfly. I certainly hope he sticks around for his senior year; I'm sure just one more ride on the tilt-a-whirl won't make me barf.

In the last two weeks, Stalock has a 39-save shutout of Minnesota State (Mankato) and a 33-save shutout of Wisconsin. It's enough to make one think the best is yet to come.

Other players to watch

Michigan and Notre Dame met and played a great home-and-home series. Michigan won in South Bend Friday, 2-1, thanks to 28 saves from sophomore goalie Bryan Hogan (undrafted). Saturday, the Fighting Irish returned the favor, taking a 3-2 decision at Yost Ice Arena. Calle Ridderwall (undrafted) was the star for Notre Dame, scoring the game-winning goal and assisting on another.

Boston University prepped for the Beanpot by beating Merrimack 3-1 Friday night. Colin Wilson (Nashville) assisted on two goals, and freshman Kieran Millan (undrafted) stopped 26 of 27 Warrior shots. In other Friday action involving Beanpot participants, Northeastern fell to Massachusetts 6-4, Boston College settled for a 2-2 draw at Providence, and Harvard snapped a 13-game winless streak with a 3-1 triumph over Union.

Providence rallied to beat Merrimack 5-2 on Saturday after the tie with Boston College Friday. Nick Mazzolini (undrafted) scored three times on the weekend.

Goaltender Jase Weslosky (N.Y. Islanders) stopped all 36 shots he faced as St. Cloud (Minn.) State beat North Dakota 3-0 Friday. The win ended North Dakota's eight-game unbeaten streak. The Fighting Sioux came back to win Saturday 4-2 behind a goal and an assist by Andrew Kozek (Atlanta).

Hi, My Name Is ... Alex Stalock originally appeared on NHL FanHouse on Tue, 03 Feb 2009 08:00:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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