Big Rapids, Mich. - Former Ferris State University men's ice hockey captain Chad Billins (Marysville) and Team USA will begin their quest for a gold medal on Wednesday (Feb. 14) as the United States opens the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.
The United States will square off against Slovenia in preliminary round action at the Kwandong Hockey Centre in PyeongChang with puck drop set for 7:10 a.m. (ET) in the U.S. with televised coverage on NBCSN and NBCOlympics.com. It will represent the first of three prelim outings for the USA.
Along with Wednesday's opener, the United States will also face Slovakia on Friday (Feb. 16) at 10:10 p.m. (ET) on CNBC from the Ganneung Hockey Centre before closing preliminary round action at the same venue on Saturday (Feb. 17) starting at 7:10 a.m. (ET) versus the Olympic Athletes from Russia.
Following preliminary round play, the quarterfinals take place on Feb. 21 with the semifinals Feb. 23. The bronze-medal game is on Feb. 24 with the gold-medal contest on Feb. 25.
The 5-8 Billins, who is currently playing overseas professionally in Sweden, is among 25 players on the U.S. Olympic Team roster comprised of players from the American Hockey League, those playing professionally in Europe and top college standouts. He's one of 15 members of the squad chosen to compete for the USA with past NHL experience and also among 15 presently playing professionally in Europe.
The former Ferris State standout served as a captain during his senior campaign on FSU's historic 2011-12 squad that reached the national championship game in the school's first-ever NCAA Frozen Four appearance.
Overall, Billins will be the fifth former Ferris State Hockey player to compete in the Olympic games, joining past participants Bob Nardella (Italy, 1998, 2006), Norm Krumpschmid (Austria, 1998), Jason Blake (United States, 2006) and Chris Kunitz (Canada, 2014). A four-time Stanley Cup Champion, Kunitz helped Team Canada to the Olympic gold medal four years ago.
The US has won 11 medals in the Olympic Winter Games, including gold in 1960 and 1980.
This past fall, Billins represented USA Hockey for the second time in his career at The Deutschland Cup in November in Augsburg, Germany. He currently plays for Linkopings HC in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) following stints with three American Hockey League (AHL) teams, including the Grand Rapids Griffins where he helped lead them to the Calder Cup Championship in 2013 under fellow FSU alum and current Detroit Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill. He's a two-time AHL All-Star choice.
Currently, Billins has suited up for Linkoping HC of the SHL in 43 games this year where he's notched four goals and 18 assists for 22 total points to date. He returned to the club after playing back in the AHL in 2016-17 for the Utica Comets, compiling three goals and 17 assists for 20 points in 72 contests. He amassed 31 points on seven goals and 24 assists in 50 outings for Linkopings HC two years ago where he also compiled four points on two goals and two assists in six playoff contests.
The previous season, in 2014-15, Billins began the campaign with CSKA Moskva of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) in Russia where he notched six points on two goals and four helpers in 21 outings. He then moved to the SHL with Lulea HF and tallied six more points on a goal and five assists in 23 additional games. It came following a successful 2013-14 season in which he posted a personal career-high 41 points on 10 goals and 31 assists in 65 regular-season outings for the AHL's Abbotsford Heat while also being called up to play 10 games for the NHL's Calgary Flames where he had three assists.
In 2012-13, Billins began his professional career and 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, who's the current head coach of the NHL's Detroit Red Wings. 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 also 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 2013 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 that 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 standout 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.