Former UMD goalie Stalock on road to recovery

Alex Stalock was happy to be walking on his own in May. More than three months after the peroneal nerve behind his left leg was accidently cut during an American Hockey League game, the goalie from South St. Paul saw some progress.

Alex Stalock was happy to be walking on his own in May. More than three months after the peroneal nerve behind his left leg was accidently cut during an American Hockey League game, the goalie from South St. Paul saw some progress.

Stalock, 24, was injured Feb. 4, underwent nerve repair surgery Feb. 14 at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and said last week his rehabilitation is about a month ahead of schedule. His recovery started with six weeks of no activity.

"The questions for anyone after surgery are 'How fast do you want to come back? How hard do you want to test your body's limits?' " Stalock said from home. "I've never had a serious injury before, so I'm finding out what it takes to recover. Walking was a big day for me. That was a big step."

Doctors have told the former Minnesota Duluth All-American that he cannot have contact in his sport for one year from his surgery date. That means Stalock could resume on-ice training in February, 2012, at the earliest, near the end of the regular season with the Worcester (Mass.) Sharks.

He had two solid seasons with Worcester (58-36-6) and, when called up because of a San Jose goalie injury, he won his NHL debut Feb. 1 as the Sharks defeated Phoenix 5-3.


Three days later, back in the AHL, he was accidentally stepped on by forward Dwight King of the Manchester (N.H.) Monarchs in a game in Worcester. It was an agonizing turnaround.

"I found out what it was like to be in the NHL, even for a short time. I know what it felt like and that's what is motivating me," said Stalock, a Bulldog from

2006-09 with career marks of a .901 save percentage and 2.73 goals-against average. "The nature of my personality is that I'm only thinking about playing this season. I'm not thinking about anything else. That's my goal; that's my job."

His recovery is being guided by his Mayo Clinic surgeon and the staff at Tria Orthopaedic Center in Bloomington, Minn. He spends about two hours a week swimming and stationary biking at Tria, and receives massage therapy. Foot flexibility drills are constant, pulling his toes toward him, to create muscle memory. To aid recovery, he wears an ankle-foot orthotic which wraps behind the calf and keeps his left foot flat.

According to the University of Washington in St. Louis School of Medicine web site:

"After nerve injury, the nerve will try to repair itself by sprouting regenerating nerve units. These regenerating units will try to grow down the nerve to restore nervous function. If they make a correct connection -- motor nerve to muscle -- then recovery of muscle function will occur."

Nerves regenerate at the rate of one inch per month.

The NHL Sharks are keeping in touch with Stalock and say they have no specific timetable for his return.


"The determination Alex has shown the last two years shows the type of player he is," said Corey Schwab, San Jose's goalie development coach. "He's the kind of guy who could come back and continue his career. His attitude is that he's not going to leave anything to chance. There's no doubt he's going to give this his best shot.

"He had a good first year in Worcester (in 2009-10) and, in my mind, was even better last season. It makes sense he would be at our (NHL) training camp in mid-September, but his recovery progress will decide when he's ready."

Stalock had nearly identical marks in two AHL seasons -- .908 save percentage and 2.63 goals against average. He was an AHL All-Star as a rookie. He signed a one-year contract last month with San Jose for $625,000 if in the NHL and $105,000 in the AHL.

"This is the longest I've been away from hockey," said Stalock, who was in Duluth last weekend for a UMD hockey alumni gathering. "I know it's going to take time."

Mason Raymond also recovering

Another former Bulldog, winger Mason Raymond of the Vancouver Canucks, also saw his 2010-11 season end due to injury. He suffered a vertebral compression fracture in the opening seconds of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals in Boston. He spent two nights in a Boston hospital and then watched in Vancouver on June 15 as Boston won 4-0 to claim the title.

Raymond, 25, from Cochrane, Alberta, didn't have back surgery. The Canucks have said recovery is expected to take three to four months. Raymond told the Vancouver Sun last month:

"It's been good. I'm doing well; every day getting better and better. I look forward to keep improving and moving on."


Raymond, making $2.55 million a year, has been in the NHL for four seasons, all with Vancouver, recording 60 goals and 76 assists for 136 points in 273 games. In two seasons at UMD, from 2005-07, he had 25 goals and 49 assists for 74 points in 79 games.

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