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McCollum Shines in Debut for Grand Rapids

Former Wings goaltender stops 23 shots in 3-1 victory

 October 19th, 2009 at 2:16PM  October 19th, 2009 8:47PM

By Michael Zuidema | The Grand Rapids Press

October 07, 2009, 4:30PM
Thomas McCollumGRAND RAPIDS -- When Thomas McCollum first came to training camp last year, he wondered if he should have a nickname his future teammates could use.

He didn't need to worry. Detroit Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood and goaltending coach Jim Bedard already had one picked out: Bullwinkle.

It stuck, and now appears on the back of McCollum's helmet.

"It doesn't bother me at all," McCollum said. "Seems to be working well."

It certainly did in his Griffins debut.

McCollum stopped 23 shots in Grand Rapids' 3-1 season-opening win against the Peoria Rivermen on Oct. 3. After giving up a first-period goal, he stopped the Rivermen over the final 53:28 of play for his first professional win.

McCollum -- however briefly -- currently leads the American Hockey League in both goals against average (1.00) and save percentage (.958).

At 19 years, 9 months, he also became the youngest goaltender to play for the Griffins. Mathieu Chouinard was 20 years, 5 months when he won his debut with Grand Rapids on Oct. 6, 2000.

"It was a great start for him," Grand Rapids coach Curt Fraser said. "It gets people paying attention to him now. He starts off in Peoria against a really tough team and comes up with a win."

McCollum, the 30th overall pick in the 2008 NHL draft, was just happy to get his debut out of the way.

"It was extremely exciting," he said. "I was a little nervous going in, obviously, my first professional game, but I settled in pretty nicely, had a few fortunate bounces and the team played very well in front of me."

McCollum said he felt more comfortable as the game went on, which helped his confidence grow as well.

"Playing well in your first game always bodes well for the season," he said. "I think playing well in that first game gives me confidence to know I can play at this level and hopefully play very well."

McCollum will serve as Daniel Larsson's backup when the Griffins travel to Toronto on Saturday. McCollum hopes the two goalies will be able to help each other throughout the season.

"We play fairly different styles, but at the same time we can sort of teach each other different things," McCollum said. "Like I can learn from his lateral movement and stuff where he's down on the ice, and he maybe can takes notes from my positioning and when I try to use my size to my advantage."

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