January 9, 2014

Former Bulldogs Billins & Blashill Chosen For 2014 AHL All-Star Classic

Big Rapids, Mich. - The American Hockey League announced today its roster for the 2014 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Assante Wealth Management and the Ferris State University men's ice hockey program will be represented by two former alumni in the event, which takes place next month at Mile One Centre in St. John's, N.L.

Former Bulldog defenseman Chad Billins, who captained FSU to the 2012 NCAA Frozen Four and the national championship game, is among 20 roster selections for the AHL All-Star Team. Meanwhile, former goaltender and assistant coach Jeff Blashill, who's currently the head coach of the defending AHL Calder Cup Champion Grand Rapids Griffins, was tabbed to lead the AHL All-Stars in St. John's.

In his first season with the AHL's Abbotsford Heat, Billins became the 11th former Bulldog player to skate in the National Hockey League (NHL) earlier this year when he was called up to the Calgary Flames. Billins, a 24-year-old from Marysville, Mich., currently leads the Heat defence corps with six goals and 26 points in 33 AHL games (along with two assists in two NHL games). The rearguard sits fourth in points among AHL defensemen and second in assists. Billins is in his second AHL season and first with the Heat. This will be Billins' second consecutive AHL All-Star game.

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 Blashill's direction. 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. Blashill has the Griffins off to another strong start this campaign following the championship season a year ago.

Blashill, 40, will be the first Griffins head coach in 12 years to lead an AHL All-Star Team, following Bruce Cassidy's participation in the 2002 AHL All-Star Classic. Blashill will be joined by Rob Zettler, head coach of the Syracuse Crunch, whom the Griffins defeated in the 2013 Calder Cup Finals. In 2012-13, his first season as a head coach at the pro level, Blashill led the Griffins to the Calder Cup, marking the first championship in the franchise's history. Blashill was named by the Detroit Red Wings as the ninth head coach in Grand Rapids Griffins history on June 25, 2012.

Taking place just prior to the start of the men's Olympic hockey tournament, the 2014 AHL All-Star Classic will see a team of American Hockey League All-Stars face off against Färjestad BK, one of the top professional teams in the Swedish Hockey League, in an internationally televised two-day event including a Skills Competition on Tuesday, Feb. 11 and the All-Star Game on Wednesday, Feb. 12.

The AHL All-Star team comprises 20 players – 12 forwards, six defensemen and two goaltenders – and was selected by a committee of AHL coaches and general managers. The AHL All-Stars will be led in St. John's by Blashill along with Rob Zettler, head coach of the defending Eastern Conference champion Syracuse Crunch.

2014 AHL All-Star Team

Forwards
Brett Connolly, Syracuse Crunch (Tampa Bay)
Brian Gibbons, W-B/Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh)
Mike Hoffman, Binghamton Senators (Ottawa)
Jason Jaffray, St. John's IceCaps (Winnipeg)
Travis Morin, Texas Stars (Dallas)
Brandon Pirri, Rockford IceHogs (Chicago)
Colton Sceviour, Texas Stars (Dallas)
Colton Sissons, Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville)
Ryan Spooner, Providence Bruins (Boston)
Ben Street, Abbotsford Heat (Calgary)
Ryan Strome, Bridgeport Sound Tigers (N.Y. Islanders)
Linden Vey, Manchester Monarchs (Los Angeles)

Defensemen
Chad Billins, Abbotsford Heat (Calgary)
T.J. Brennan, Toronto Marlies (Toronto)
Cody Goloubef, Springfield Falcons (Columbus)
Alexey Marchenko, Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit)
Brayden McNabb, Rochester Americans (Buffalo)
Frederic St. Denis, Springfield Falcons (Columbus)

Goaltenders
Jake Allen, Chicago Wolves (St. Louis)
Martin Jones, Manchester Monarchs (Los Angeles)

Of the 20 players named to the AHL All-Star team, 19 have National Hockey League experience, including 14 who have played in the NHL this season. Billins is among those who made his NHL debut earlier this season with Calgary. Eight All-Stars are former first or second-round draft picks in the NHL, and 13 will be participating in the event for the first time.

"More than 850 players have appeared in American Hockey League games this season," said David Andrews, AHL President and Chief Executive Officer. "It is a tremendous achievement for these 20 to have been selected to represent the AHL in this unique showcase event."

The 2014 AHL All-Star Classic will mark the first time ever that a Swedish Hockey League team has competed in North America. Founded in 1932 and based in the city of Karlstad, Sweden, Färjestad BK – led by team CEO Håkan Loob – is one of the most successful franchises in all of European hockey, playing in 19 league finals and winning nine Swedish league championships, including four since 2002.

The international telecast of the 2014 AHL All-Star Classic in St. John's will be produced and broadcast live by Sportsnet. In addition to the Skills Competition and All-Star Game, the 2014 AHL All-Star Classic will also include social events as well as the 2014 AHL Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Ceremony.

A limited number of tickets remain available for the 2014 AHL All-Star Classic. They can be purchase in person in person at the Mile One Centre box office (12-5 NT), by phone at 709-576-7657 (9:30-5:30 NT), or online at mileonecentre.com. Tickets for the two-day event are $100 (plus taxes and surcharges) and include admission to both the All-Star Skills Competition on Feb. 11 and the All-Star Game on Feb. 12.

The 2014 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Assante Wealth Management will be the 20th edition of the modern AHL All-Star event, and the first to feature an international opponent. Of the 630 players to take part in the AHL All-Star Classic since the event was reinstated in 1995, more than 93 percent have competed in the National Hockey League, including Patrice Bergeron, Daniel Briere, Ryan Callahan, Zdeno Chara, Jimmy Howard, Niklas Kronwall, Chris Kunitz, Ryan Miller, Zach Parise, Tuukka Rask, Pekka Rinne, Bobby Ryan, Martin St. Louis, Cory Schneider, Patrick Sharp, Jason Spezza and Eric Staal.

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