GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Headed into Game 3 of their second-round playoff series, the Grand Rapids Griffins are riding a five-game winning streak and boasting a hot goalie who is finally getting to shine the postseason.
Despite being a first-round draft pick, goalie Tom McCullom had to wait six years to get his first playoff start with the Griffins in Game 1 of the first-round playoff series against the Toronto Marlies.
“After a six-year wait, it was really nice to get a chance to start that first playoff game,” McCollum said.
His team did not play very well in front of him, McCollum gave up six goals and the Griffins lost. McCollum suddenly found himself in the backup role and on the bench for Game 2.
“I really wish it would have gone better,” he said.
After also losing Game 2 against the Marlies and facing playoff elimination, coach Jeff Blashill and the Griffins went back to McCollum. The team proceeded to win three straight elimination games and therefore the series.
“It’s been amazing,” Griffins defenseman Nathan Paetsch said. “You can just see his confidence building every game. Game 5 against Toronto, he really put that team on his shoulders and really made some huge saves for us, and won that series. So we have a lot of confidence in him going forward.”
McCullom now has five straight overall wins and a firm grasp on the starting job.
“Because of the seasons he’s had in the regular season the last couple of years, he’s certainly confident in his ability to be elite at this level as are we confident in him,” Blashill said. “As you do well in the postseason, that confidence just continues to grow and I can see it growing in him for sure.”
McCollum said he hopes to take what he learned watching the Griffins’ 2013 championship run and to help lead his team on another.
“I had a lot of fun watching the games in the past couple of years, just enjoying the runs and talking with the guys all the time,” McCollum said. “But definitely being the guy out there on the ice with a lot more control is definitely more fun.”
“It’s been a long time coming. He’s making the most of it and we’re going to need him down the stretch for sure,” team captain Jeff Hoggan said.
The Griffins play the Rockford IceHogs in Game 3 of the second-round Calder Cup Playoff series on Wednesday in Rockford, Ill. Grand Rapids won Games 1 and 2 of the best-of-seven series.
Schedule of series against IceHogs:
- Game 3: 8 p.m. on Wednesday, May 13 at Rockford
- Game 4: 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 14 at Rockford
- (If necessary) Game 5: 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 17 at Rockford
- (If necessary) Game 6: 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 19 at Van Andel Arena
- (If necessary) Game 7: 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 20 at Van Anel Arena