Ryan Thomas came to the St. Cloud Norsemen mid January and he’s not only been a fantastic fit for the Norsemen, but St. Cloud has been a wonderful environment for him.
“St. Cloud’s been great; since I got here I’ve felt like I was at home. All of the guys, right when I got to the team, they were welcoming and I felt pretty comfortable with all of them as soon as I got here,” Thomas explains. “Everyone in the organization has been pretty great to me and has treated me with respect and the way I want to be treated.”
Thomas hails from Chicago, IL and is much closer to home now than he was in the first half of the season as he was up in Fairbanks, AK playing for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs. His issue with the Ice Dogs was staying healthy as he appeared in just 12 of Fairbanks’ 33 games before he came to St. Cloud. He also was pointless in those 12 games but has scored two goals and six points in 20 games with the Norsemen.
“Obviously we brought him over for a reason because we thought he could help our team win and he scored a nice goal right away when he came in (January 13th in Austin, MN, his first game in a Norsemen sweater),” says St. Cloud Assistant Coach Brock Kautz. “Unfortunately, the injury bug kinda bit him a little bit and he missed some time, so he wasn’t as comfortable as when he is fully healthy and playing a lot. But he’s been working his butt off getting back in the lineup, working every single day at practice, and we know that he’s a guy that can help us when given the opportunity.”
While Thomas has missed some time in St. Cloud, he’s been able to make the lineup more consistently and when out there has been able to log more ice time than with the Ice Dogs. He’s dressed in 20 of the 29 Norsemeovern games since coming over to St. Cloud and the team has greatly benefitted from him coming to the team. Before Thomas’ arrival the Norsemen were 13-14-2-2; since his first game with the Norsemen St. Cloud has gone 15-19-2-3.
The defenseman doesn’t feel that he plays like any particular professional blue liner but more that his style is defined by this generation of rearguards. “I’m kinda like the new-age defensemen; offensive, I can join or lead the rush when I get the chance,” Thomas describes his game. “But at the same time, pretty good defensively. I can break the puck out and I skate it pretty well.”
Kautz agrees that Thomas is good at both ends of the ice and has the right mentality of taking care of the defensive zone first and foremost. “RT, he skates super well, he’s got a good set of stick skills and you can expect to see him kinda join rushes when the opportunity is there,” compliments Kautz. “And he does take a lot of pride in our end and playing the right way. He understands you take care of the defensive side of the puck first and then, with his ability, he’s able to join the rush when able to.”
Thomas’ former squad the Fairbanks Ice Dogs just missed the playoffs this season finishing 6th in the Midwest Division, three points behind the #4 seed Chippewa Steel. Ryan’s thrilled that he’s at a place where he’s able to play beyond the regular season and try to make a run in the postseason. “Obviously, what you want to do is get to playoffs and you wanna make some noise. You wanna do everything possible for the guys that are aging out; hopefully get them deals because you know when you’re in that position, for me in my case next year, I’m gonna want the youngers guys to battle for me and be there for me,” Thomas rationalizes. “We’re gonna do everything in our power to bring this thing home.”
The postseason journey begins this weekend with the Norsemen headed back to Aberdeen for the second straight weekend. The games Friday and Saturday will see the puck drop at 7:15 both nights and Erick Zamora will have the call on hockeytv.com.
The only guaranteed home game for the Norsemen in the first round is Game 3 on Friday, April 28th at 7:15. Get your tickets online at tickets.stcloudnorsemen.com.