This stopper helps make Caps a going concern

Kenn Oliver
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Collins has quietly become one of the SJJHL's best netminders

If you have never heard of Shane Collins, don't worry, you're not alone.

Until late last season, the St. John's Toyota Plaza Caps goaltender was a relative unknown in the Kent St. John's Junior Hockey League.

While contemporaries Kyle Downer, and former junior netminders Adam O'Brien and Devin O'Brien - garnered headlines and generated buzz with their play, Collins quietly went about doing what he loves - stopping pucks.

St. John's Junior Caps goaltender, Shane Collins, sports an undefeated record (8-0) this season and boasts the SJJHL's best goal against average (1.62) and save percentage (.943). - Photo by Kenn Oliver/The Telegram

If you have never heard of Shane Collins, don't worry, you're not alone.

Until late last season, the St. John's Toyota Plaza Caps goaltender was a relative unknown in the Kent St. John's Junior Hockey League.

While contemporaries Kyle Downer, and former junior netminders Adam O'Brien and Devin O'Brien garnered headlines and generated buzz with their play, Collins quietly went about doing what he loves - stopping pucks.

"I just want to win," the mild-mannered 21-year-old says. "I don't think about what other people are saying about me. I have a lot of drive and heart for our team."

It was those qualities and the fact that, "technically he's a great goaltender ... always in position" that earned him team MVP honours last season says Greg Ryerson, who has been Collins' coach since he broke into the junior ranks in 2006.

Through the first half of the 2009-10 season, Collins is showing the same poise between the pipes he did last spring when he helped St. John's to a Veitch provincial junior title - he was he was the tournament's top goalie - and a Don Johnson Cup Atlantic junior B crown.

Collins is undefeated (8-0) and boasts the league's best goals against average (1.62) and save percentage (.943). Of his 13 goals against, nine have come in two games. And he has a pair of shutouts to boot.

"When he took over that No. 1 spot last year (from overager Andrew Stanford), his confidence seemed to go right through the roof," Ryerson recounts.

"He took the boys to those championships and he played some phenomenal hockey."

Ryerson figures the arrival of rookie netminder Joey Yetman this season has also pushed Collins to maintain his starter's role.

"He knows he's got a young goalie coming behind him who is quite capable of being a No. 1 in the league. That keeps him on his toes because he really wants to be in net."

The threat of Yetman supplanting him is not lost on Collins.

"I know I've got to fight for my spot and my ice time every game. If he's playing well, he's going to play over me."

Together, Collins and Yetman are easily the league's top goaltending tandem, posting a combined 2.10 goals against average through 18 games (Yetman is 6-2 while third-string keeper Andrew Hurley, who backed up Downer last season, is 2-0).

Of course, any goaltender relies on the team in front of him to make his job easier. In Collins's case, he's got one of the league's better blueline corps with Patrick Parfrey, Jeff MacRoberts, Sean Lynch and Roger Pender.

"They keep the shots down, if there are any rebounds, the guys clear them right away and there's usually no one open in the slots. Shotwise, it hasn't been a tough year," says Collins ,who has faced the second-fewest shots (227) to the Celtics' David Parsons (210).

But even with his impressive numbers, his coach insists Collin's junior league peers won't acknowledge he's the best goalie in the league.

"What you'll hear is other teams saying 'Collins is a good goalie ... but they've got a great team this year'," Ryerson explains.

"If you come up against guys like Downer all your career, you can be put on the backburner. Even though you're a good goalie, the focus is not on you and right now, it still isn't, even though he's outplayng these other guys.

"Shane doesn't get as much credit from other teams as he probably should."

Collins, a man of few words like most goaltenders, says he isn't "just along for the ride" with the Caps.

"I'd like some recognition," he says.

"But this is a team game and we really do play as a team. I don't want to take any more credit than I deserve because if we win as a team, we all deserve the same amount of credit."

koliver@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Junior Hockey League, Celtics

Geographic location: St. John's

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