Top Shelf with Tony Uminski 3/15
You catch a glimpse of Mason Geertsen every Rampage game during the pre-game introduction video just before the players race onto the ice. Geertsen is the first Rampage player throwing haymakers to get you revved up and wanting more exciting Rampage hockey.
The other 99 percent of the game, Geertsen morphs back into the invisible man, otherwise known as the defensive defenseman. If he were to check the post-game scoring report he might not see a lot, but Geertsen knows he’s done his job— quietly.
In 24 games this season, the Drayton Valley, Alta. native has one assist and 37 penalty minutes. In 42 games last season with San Antonio, Geertsen was a tad more offensive-minded with eight assists and his 62 minutes off the ice was a professional high in one stop. But lighting up the scorecard is not a priority. “Of course I want to score, but if the other guys aren’t scoring, my job’s taken care of.”
That’s the song of hockey’s version of football’s offensive lineman – the only time you hear their number called is when they’re holding someone.
Since Mason grew up in Drayton Valley, (just south of Rocky Rapids and northeast of Violet Grove) his mom would have to drive him 90 minutes one-way to hockey practice. According to Geertsen, his mom told him, “Hey, if you’re going do this, you better do it right. I’m driving you there, so give me everything you have.”
He was drafted into junior hockey by the nearby Edmonton Oil Kings, but traded to the Vancouver Giants, the worst team in the Western Hockey League. Getting traded as a 17-year old was a shocking development. “At practice they told me, ‘Hey, you’ve been traded to Vancouver. So I flew out the next morning and played with Vancouver that night. I was 17 and didn’t even know what was going on. It was definitely an adjustment.”
Playing for a struggling team allowed the 6-2, 212 pound backliner a chance to grow physically, learn his position, and get the attention of Colorado Avalanche scouts who drafted him in the fourth round of the 2013 draft. “It was definitely a cool experience being a part of that. I couldn’t be happier.”
Geertsen’s junior career was just getting off the ground as he spent two more seasons in Vancouver before turning pro. He scored 17 goals with 44 assists, played in all kinds of situations, and rewarded the Avs’ confidence in his potential eventually earning his pro debut in Lake Erie two years ago.
Coming from a hockey playing family, including a small handmade rink in the backyard complete with a Zamboni (the old Medicine Hat Tiger Zamboni according to Geertsen) he was ready for the pros.
He split last season between San Antonio and their ECHL affiliates the Fort Wayne Komets (1-3-4 in 21 games), and took the assignment to northern Indiana as an opportunity to improve.
“It was good for me last year. I got my bearings and some confidence to come back up here.”
After a nine-game stint with the new ECHL Rampage affiliate in Loveland, Colo., Geertsen has been a more consistent and productive defender. “Being more aware in my D-zone, gap control (on the breakout) and slowly working on my offensive game is where I’m working right now.”
His aggressive nature came through last season when he had eight AHL fights and two more in the ECHL. Not so much this season as fighting has been reduced in the game. “It’s kind of like an out-of-body experience,” he said regarding exchanging blows on the ice. Geertsen’s skill set allows his foray into dropping the gloves and sending an agitated message when necessary, but also relying on his ability to play the backend with confidence and strength.
Just because he doesn’t score goals doesn’t mean he doesn’t have them. “I’m hoping to start playing against the top lines, be strong defensively, make good plays, be physical and see where it takes me.”
Perhaps a stint in the NHL?
The Rampage swept the defending Calder Cup champion Cleveland Monsters, 4-0 this season... Rocco Grimaldi has goals in five of his last six games to give him 25 on the year, tied for the third most in the AHL… Grimaldi's former San Antonio teammates from two years ago are doing well – Wade Megan leads the AHL with 27 goals with the Chicago Wolves and defenseman Steven Kempfer, also from that 2014-15 San Antonio club, scored his first of the year for the NY Rangers on Monday night… During that last Rampage playoff season, Grimaldi scored 14-28-42, Megan tallied 8-5-13, and Blacker notched 8-11-19 from the blueline… Another former Rampage player from that team has resumed his NHL career as Drew Shore signed with the Canucks for the remainder of the season…Shore, who scored 26-69-95 in 134 games here, had an assist in his Vancouver debut, a 6-3 loss to Boston Monday, to give him 9-16-25 in 81 NHL contests with Florida, Calgary and the Canucks…Shore was traded midway through that season for Corbin Knight…Grimaldi is 11 shots away from the league lead with 182… Former Rampage and Colorado goaltender Reto Berra is up with the Florida Panthers and played a scoreless 25 plus minutes against the Rangers on March 7… Berra, whose trade to Florida brought Grimaldi back to SA, has played most of the year in Springfield, going 12-14-3 with a 2.53 GAA and three shutouts… Goaltender Spencer Martin has stopped nine-of-10 shootout skaters, the third best in the AHL… MacKenzie Weegar got his first call-up with the Panthers… Weegar played here two years ago and had 12-15-27 at Springfield this season, an AHL All-Star selection as well.
In Case You Missed It
Former captain Greg Rallo played a part in all San Antonio goals in a 4-2 win over the Houston Aeros on Mar. 15, 2013, in front of 8,867 at the AT&T Center… Rallo scored the first and last goals of the game and assisted on two others… Dov Grumet-Morris stopped 37-of-39 Aeros shots, beating current Minnesota Wild backup Darcy Kuemper… Rallo played for the Isenlohn Roosters of the German League, scoring 13-12-25 in 45 games… Here’s a blast-from-the-past – one of Rallo’s Isenlohn teammates was Michel Periard, a Rampage player from 2003-05, where he scored 12-28-40 in 87 games from the blueline… Quinton Howden and Evan Barlow scored the other Rampage goals in that win over Houston four years ago.