By Scott Linesburgh
The Stockton Record
STOCKTON, Calif. – Ryan Geris feels fortunate he will get to play in his first professional hockey game Friday.
Forced to retire two years ago because of post-concussion syndrome, Geris was medically cleared to play at the University of Minnesota-Duluth this season. On Thursday, the defenseman signed with the Stockton Thunder (34-22-10), which plays host to the Phoenix Roadrunners (26-35-5) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Stockton Arena.
“It’s going to be a big moment for me,” Geris said. “For a while, I thought I was done with the game.”
Geris, 25, was signed to add depth to the defense heading into the playoffs. The Thunder, which has won seven in a row, has two ailing defensemen – Mark Adamek can not play until Sunday because of a sprained knee, and Beau Geisler, a former teammate of Geris’ at UMD, is day to day with back spasms.
“Ryan is a good, intelligent player, and I think he can come in here and help us,” Thunder coach Chris Cichocki said. “We did a lot of checking, and he has a clean bill of health.”
Geris, a native of Alexandria, Minn., has not had a concussion in three years. He had four concussions between his sophomore year of high school and his sophomore season in college. He spent most of his junior year at UMD as a graduate assistant coach.
“The doctors had pretty much pulled the plug,” Geris said. “It was tough because I wanted to play. And after a while people suggested that I get checked out and see if I could play again.”
Geris said he had tests at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and was cleared to play. He played in 36 games as a senior with the Bulldogs and said he did not get injured.
“I didn’t fear going back on the ice, and I know I play a position where you get hit,” Geris said. “But I was completely cleared and to tell you the truth, I don’t really think about it much.”
Cichocki said he did consider Geris’ medical situation before signing him, saying the team’s doctors spoke to physicians connected to UMD. Cichocki and Thunder trainer Kevin Anderson also discussed it.
“If we weren’t comfortable with his medical situation, we wouldn’t have him out there,” Cichocki said. “He was cleared by the college doctors, the Mayo Clinic and I know the NCAA watches these issues carefully. And he hasn’t had any problems this season.”
Anderson said he will closely monitor Geris.
“Concussions can be tricky, and I’ve told him I planned to keep a close eye on him,” Anderson said. “He does have a history of concussion, and although he’s cleared, you have to be aware of that.”
UMD was eliminated from the college playoffs three weeks ago, and Geris has to play in at least five ECHL regular season games to qualify for the playoffs. The Thunder has six games remaining, including two against Phoenix.