COLUMBUS, Ohio – Griffins goalie Tom McCollum could see it coming.
But certainly not to the magnitude that eventually transpired last Saturday when Grand Rapids and Rockford IceHogs tussled at BMO Harris Bank Center.
“They’ve been a lot of fight-filled games when we’ve played them, but I don’t think that (Saturday) ever crossed anybody’s minds,” McCollum said. “There have been fights pretty much every game, so you knew something was going to happen.”
A season’s worth of animosity and ugliness heated to a boil when the Griffins and IceHogs, the minor-league affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, engaged in an old-fashioned bench-clearing brawl, resulting in 192 penalty minutes and 13 player ejections.
In seven games this season, the Griffins and IceHogs have amassed 604 penalty minutes – that’s little more than 86 PIM per game. Rockford will host the Griffins in the last of an eight-game season series on Feb. 22.
The two AHL clubs have had a long contentious rivalry, McCollum said.
“We’ve really had eight different guys who have fought somebody on their team at some point,” McCollum said. “That’s probably something that contributed to the other night. We’ve had a lot of guys go at it in the past, just some bad blood building up.”
For their involvement in the second-period skirmish, which lasted more than 3 ½ minutes, five Griffins’ players – goalie Petr Mrazek, defensemen Gleason Fournier and Brian Lashoff, and forwards Francis Pare and Tomas Tatar – received game-misconducts and subsequent ejections.
McCollum, however, was the lone Griffins’ player who didn’t join the fracas.
“There’s no room on the bench there, so I was in the Zamboni tunnel and they weren’t interested at all in opening the door and adding another body to it,” said McCollum, who entered the game after Mrazek’s ejection. “Their backup goalie stayed on the bench too, which at least, numbers-wise, kept it really even. So I really had a front-row seat to everything.”
McCollum will have a front row seat again when he backs up Jimmy Howard in Monday night’s game against the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. The Red Wings recalled McCollum for the next two games after backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson complained of groin soreness on Sunday.
The Red Wings’ first-round draft pick in 2008, McCollum made his NHL debut nearly two years ago, where he surrendered three goals on eight shots in a backup role. He hasn’t played for the Red Wings since, but he remains hunger for another chance in the league.
“I would definitely love to, especially considering how the first go-around went,” said McCollum, who is 10-6-1 with a 2.69 goals-against this season. “I know I’m much better than that. Two years later I think I’ve really learned a lot and have been working hard the last couple of years. It would be nice to get a chance to show what all of my hard work has led to.”
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