Big Rapids, Mich. - Former Ferris State University standout defenseman Chad Billins (Marysville, Mich.) notched his first career hat trick on Sunday (Feb. 24) to lead the American Hockey League's (AHL) Grand Rapids Griffins to a dominant 7-3 come-from-behind victory over the San Antonio Rampage at Van Andel Arena.
With the Griffins staring down a brutal schedule that will see them play 14 of 18 games on the road over the next six weeks, the rookie defenseman tallied three goals in the final 26 minutes of Sunday's game to help Grand Rapids snap a two-game losing streak.
The co-captain of Ferris State's historic NCAA Frozen Four team a year ago, Billins, who had never scored a hat trick at any level of hockey, gave Grand Rapids a 4-2 lead by scoring twice late in the second period, then he capped off the night at 18:48 of the third to became the first defenseman in Griffins history to notch a hat trick at home. Logan Pyett, the only other Grand Rapids blueliner to score three goals in one game, accomplished the feat at Hamilton on Feb. 27, 2011.
Billins collected his own rebound and beat San Antonio netminder Dov Grumet-Morris from the right post for his initial goal in the second period. He then notched his second power play goal in less than five minutes at 19:23, only seven seconds after Jared Gomes was ushered off for hooking. Intercepting a pass at the point, he threaded his way into the left circle and sent a low wrister that snuck inside the far post, staking Grand Rapids to a 4-2 lead. He later restored a four-goal cushion late in the third period by streaking down the right wing to tally his second unassisted goal of the evening and the hat trick.
The Griffins, who increased their lead atop the AHL's Midwest Division to five points over Chicago, will play three road games in three nights next weekend, beginning with Friday's 8 p.m. EST visit to Milwaukee.
Billins has made the most of his rookie season for the Detroit Red Wings' AHL affiliate in the Grand Rapids Griffins, where's he's played for head coach Jeff Blashill, a former Ferris State player and assistant coach who served as a NHL assistant with the Red Wings last campaign.
As a rookie this season, Billins was chosen to compete as a member of the Western Conference All-Star Team in the 2013 Dunkin' Donuts AHL All-Star Classic, which was held on Jan. 28 in Providence (R.I.).
The standout defenseman needed little time to transition to the professional ranks after a four-year career at Ferris State, racking up 16 points (1-15-16) in his first 16 AHL games. Billins currently has 29 points (6-23-29) in 52 games this season. Earlier this year, he also skated in an exhibition contest involving both current Grand Rapids Griffins and Detroit Red Wings players, which was televised live by Fox Sports Detroit.
A native of Marysville, Mich., Billins logged 29 points (7-22—29) and 24 penalty minutes in 43 games with the Bulldogs last season while claiming American Hockey Coaches Association (AHCA) All-America Second Team plaudits. He served as a co-captain for the Bulldogs during the team's run to the NCAA Frozen Four, where they advanced to the national title game. Overall, he skated in 149 games in four years with Ferris State, notching 67 points (17-50—67) and 108 penalty minutes.
Billins was recognized last season as both a All-Central Collegiate Hockey Association (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.
This season, Billins is not the only former Bulldog skater to notch three or more goals in a professional hockey league contest. Former Bulldog All-American Chris Kunitz totaled a career-high four goals for the Pittsburgh Penguins in a National Hockey League (NHL) game earlier this month.