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Stalock Returns Home, Hoping To Find Game

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

Alex Stalock's interest in the Minnesota Wild didn’t begin on July 1. It didn't begin in the days leading up 2016 NHL free agency during the shopping period, when teams can contact players and see if there's any mutual infatuation.

A South Saint Paul native, whose formative hockey years coincided with Minnesota losing and then regaining an NHL franchise, Stalock's interest in the Wild was bred out of nature and nurture.

Now a member of the franchise he grew up idolizing, Stalock's visions of donning a Wild sweater aren't so farfetched.

"When Minnesota came calling and we started talking to them, the excitement picked up," Stalock said. "For this to happen and work out here at home, I can't be any more excited than I am."

Stalock who, as a teenager, backstopped South Saint Paul high school to a State Tournament appearance, and later manned the crease for the University of Minnesota Duluth for three years, has made several hockey stops at Xcel Energy Center.

But a chance to now call it "home" holds a different, special meaning.

"To be able to sit there and watch, and (think), "Boy, could I play out here?" and now to have a chance, and an opportunity to throw that jersey on would be really special," Stalock said. "Not only for me, but for my family. We're definitely excited."

Though the accolades followed Stalock, all-star and all-conference teams, and earning a local reputation as a top goaltender, the circumstances that brought him to back to Minnesota were a bit different.

Stalock has been knocking on the door of being an NHL mainstay over his seven-year professional career. In 2013-14, he played 24 games for the San Jose Sharks. The following season, he got into 22 games for the 2016 Western Conference champs.

But at the 2016 trade deadline, Stalock was dealt to the Toronto Maple Leafs for James Reimer. Stalock reported to Toronto's American Hockey League team, the Marlies, where he finished the season.

The Wild see Stalock solidifying its goaltending depth, giving Iowa and its American Hockey League arm a legitimate number one to play major minutes, or, if needed, extra help in Minnesota.

For Stalock, the chance to sign with the Wild not only brought him back home, but also will present him with a chance to get consistent minutes, something he sees as vital to his professional career where it currently stands.

"It's for me to get back, and get back to playing, and finding my game, and playing good hockey," Stalock said. " To get complete games in, start to finish, and feel good, and play well, is huge.

"I look forward to that most importantly, and from there, everything else should take care of itself."

Stalock, a 6-foot even, 190-pound goaltender said he's gotten by mostly on his athleticism up to this point. But in Minnesota, there are technical elements of his game he's hoping to fine-tune, from staying square to shooters, and playing less aggressively when the situation doesn't call for it.

"Alex had a great attitude, and he's very excited about getting down to Des Moines and playing," General Manager Chuck Fletcher said. "When you're a backup goalie sometimes for a few years you don't get a lot of starts, and your game can slip.

"He really wants to get in and play games, and get his game back to the level it can be."

Stalock said part of re-finding his game could come down to simplifying.

It's a familiar, less-is-more concept in goaltending, one Devan Dubnyk has cited on multiple occasions on the heels of playing some of his most effective hockey.

"The position of the goaltender is always evolving," Stalock said. "It's something you have to stay on top of. I've only heard good things about Bob Mason and what he does with his goalies."

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