November 5, 2013

Two Former Ferris State Hockey Defensemen Called Up To The NHL


Billins   | Redmond 

Big Rapids, Mich. - The success continues for former Ferris State University men's ice hockey players in the professional ranks as two Bulldog alums were recently officially recalled by National Hockey League (NHL) franchises.

The Calgary Flames recalled former Bulldog defenseman Chad Billins from the American Hockey League's (AHL) Abbotsford Heat on Friday with the Winnipeg Jets recalling former Bulldog defenseman Zach Redmond from the St. John's IceCaps of the AHL on Sunday.Both are still waiting to see their first NHL game action of the season.

Billins, a defenseman who was signed as a free agent this past summer, was in his first season with the Abbotsford Heat and had tallied a team-high five goals and six points in 10 contests this season before being called up for the first time.

"It's a thrill when you first hear the words, that you're getting called up. It's pretty exciting," he said. "It's something you dream about when you're a little boy and it's just an exciting time. If I get the opportunity to get in, I'll be ready. Until then, you've got to stay focused and learn everything I can while I'm up here."

Last season, Billins played a key role as the Grand Rapids Griffins claimed the 2013 AHL Calder Cup Championship by beating the Syracuse Crunch under another former Bulldog alum in head coach Jeff Blashill. It was the first title in the 17-year history of the franchise and a Detroit Red Wings farm team's first title since Adirondack captured the Cup in 1982.  It was the first-ever championship in nearly 30 seasons of professional hockey in Grand Rapids and came in the longest AHL season ever.

Billins helped set the tone with an assist on the first goal of the title series and finished the Calder Cup Playoffs with a pair of goals and 12 assists for 14 total points along with a +5 plus/minus efficiency rating.  The Grand Rapids rookie led all AHL defenseman in playoff scoring last season.  During regular-season action, Billins totaled 37 points on 10 goals and a team second-best 27 assists in 76 contests.  He placed sixth among the team's scoring leaders while recording seven power-play goals.

Billins joined the Griffins after wrapping up his senior campaign as both an All-American on the ice and an Academic All-American for his work in the classroom while helping the Bulldogs to their first-ever NCAA Frozen Four appearance and a national runner-up effort in 2011-12. A native of Marysville, Mich., Billins logged 29 points (7-22—29) and 24 penalty minutes in 43 games with the Bulldogs as a senior while claiming American Hockey Coaches Association (AHCA) All-America Second Team plaudits on the ice.

The veteran defenseman served as a co-captain for the Bulldogs during the team's run to the NCAA Frozen Four, where they were defeated in the championship game by Boston College. The 5-10, 175-pound defenseman skated in 149 games in four years with Ferris State, notching 67 points (17-50—67) and 108 penalty minutes.

Billins was recognized in his final season as both a All-CCHA First Team recipient and the winner of the CCHA's prestigious Scholar-Athlete Award as the Bulldogs claimed the school's second-ever league regular-season crown.  He placed second among CCHA defensemen with 25 points (7-18—25) in 31 conference games. In 2011-12, Billins was also a finalist for the Lowe's Senior CLASS award and earned a spot on the Senior CLASS All-America Team, which rewards academic success and the loyalty of seniors that honored their four-year commitment to their university.

Prior to his collegiate career, the 24-year-old defenseman skated for the USHL's Waterloo Black Hawks in 2007-08 and finished fourth among the league's defensemen with 36 points (10-26—36) in 60 games. Billins also played 62 games for the Alpena IceDiggers of the NAHL from 2005-07, totaling 25 points (7-18—25) and 98 penalty minutes.

Meanwhile, Redmond had played in two games with the IceCaps this season for two points on a goal and an assist along with two penalty minutes.  He made his NHL debut in 2012-13 when he appeared in eight games with the Jets and recorded four points (1G, 3A) before suffering a significant leg injury which ended his NHL season. Redmond has played in 115 career AHL games between Chicago and St. John's for 52 career points (17G, 35A) and 73 career penalty minutes. 

After the injury a year ago, Redmond capped one of professional hockey's most miraculous comebacks when he returned to play in two games with the IceCaps at the end of the year before being recalled by the NHL club. Last year, Redmond was also named to the 2013 Dunkin' Donuts AHL All-Star Classic in January for his efforts with the IceCaps. 

Before turning pro, Redmond played four seasons at Ferris State from 2007-11 and served as the Bulldogs' team captain as a senior in 2010-11.  A 2010-11 All-Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) First-Team performer, Redmond registered a team second-highest 20 points on a career season-best seven goals with 13 assists in 26 contests for the Bulldogs in the 2010-11 season.

Redmond concluded his four seasons (2007-11) as a Bulldog with 90 points on 22 goals and 68 assists in 141 contests.  The 2009-10 second-team All-CCHA skater chalked up 12 power-play goals, seven game-winning tallies, one short-handed lamplighter, 217 blocked shots, and a plus 22 efficiency rating.

A 2008 seventh-round NHL Entry Draft pick (184th overall) by the Atlanta Thrashers, Redmond originally inked a contract with Atlanta and began his career skating for their top affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, of the AHL before moving to the IceCaps.

With his NHL debut last season, Redmond officially became the 10th former Bulldog player to play in the NHL for at least one game and among three FSU alums to see action on hockey's biggest stage last season in addition to Chris Kunitz (Pittsburgh) and Greg Rallo (Florida).

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