02/16/2011 2:00 PM
Feb. 16, 2011
When the Detroit Red Wings signed Joey MacDonald last summer, you couldn't have predicted the season unfolding as it has for Jordan Pearce.
MacDonald, a solid veteran, was supposed to handle a slight majority of the Grand Rapids Griffins' goaltending work, while former first-round pick Thomas McCollum was expected to pick up the remaining starts.
But with the Griffins desperately clinging to the hope of grabbing one of the final playoff spots in the American Hockey League's North Division, it's Pearce, an unheralded 24-year-old, who has emerged as the man in goal.
Pearce, who looked ticketed for a full year in the East Coast Hockey League, has appeared in 13 games in the new year to just six for MacDonald and McCollum combined. MacDonald, of course, has been filling in for Chris Osgood with the Red Wings, and McCollum is struggling to find his game.
Since his first 2011 appearance on Jan. 6, Pearce has gone 5-4-2 with a sparkling 2.67 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage. Those numbers completely blow away McCollum's and are slightly better than MacDonald's.
"When you get to play game after game, you get settled down and your confidence goes up," Pearce told the Grand Rapids Press earlier this month. "It's kind of hard when you start here and there. It's hard to be on top of your game, but hopefully I can keep playing well, and the guys in front of me can keep playing well, and we can make a big push for the playoffs. We need the points."
It's been an impressive breakthrough for the former Notre Dame star, who graduated on the Dean's List with a double-major in anthropology and pre-professional (pre-med) studies. He was never drafted and signed as a free agent with the Red Wings after posting eight shutouts in 39 games in 2008-09.
Although Pearce plans to pursue a career in medicine, his strong play likely has earned him another contract with Detroit this summer and perhaps a longer career in hockey than many might have initially projected.
The Griffins were 23-24-1-6 as of Wednesday, eight points behind the Abbotsford Heat for the final North Division playoff spot.
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