TIFFELS SHOWS HIS SKILL ON WORLD STAGE

You could say Freddie Tiffels has some history with the Penguins organization.  It is more than his sixth-round (167th overall) selection in the 2015 NHL Draft.  No, this is about a winner-take-all game on the international stage, but we’ll get to that later.

Tiffels signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins on June 22, capping off a whirlwind Spring for the 22-year old from Cologne, Germany. 
His junior year at Western Michigan University was a memorable one.  After two down seasons, Tiffels was part of a resurgence that saw the Broncos thrive in a stacked NCHC that featured the last two teams standing in the NCAA tournament – Denver and Minnesota-Duluth – not to mention perennial powerhouse North Dakota.  Tiffels tied a career high with 21 points (9G-12A) in 37 games as Western Michigan spent 10 weeks in the top 10 and finished tenth in the final USCHO poll.  Though the Broncos fell to Air Force in the first round of the NCAA Championship, Tiffels would go on to make his mark in a not-so-small tournament a short time later. 
 
Though most North American hockey fans hone in on international play every four years at the Olympics, the World Championships takes place annually and is as big as it gets in international play.  Tiffels received an invitation to try out for Team Germany and was the only collegiate player to make the roster. Through training camp and exhibition games, he used his high-end speed to repeatedly catch the eye of Head Coach Marco Sturm.  The relatively-unknown Tiffels made a name for himself skating alongside players such Leon Draisaitl, Christian Ehroff and Dennis Seidenberg.
 
After Tiffels scored his first international goal in a loss against Russia, Sturm told DW, “”Freddie is giving us more than we had expected. He always goes all out.”
The German forward was hardly done and saved his biggest performance for the most important game of the group stage round robin.  And this is where the history comes into play.  Maybe not so much against the Penguins as a whole, but instead another prospect in their system. 
 
On May 16, in Tiffels’ hometown of Cologne, Team Germany took on a Latvia side that included Penguins forward Teddy Blueger.  The winner of this game moved on to the knockout stage. The loser was done for the tournament.  After a thrilling 65 minutes of regulation and overtime hockey could only net a 3-3 deadlock, the two teams headed to the shootout.  Five shooters skated out to center ice and all five failed to score on the opposing netminder. 
 
With the game on his stick, Tiffels raced into the slot and dragged the puck back to his forehand before unleashing a wrist shot through the five-hole of Latvian goalie Elvis Merzlinkins.
 
About the moment, Tiffels said, “I think I was a little bit lucky because Latvia missed three times and [Germany] only missed twice.  I could only be the hero.  If I don’t score, it just goes to another around.  So, I think there was not too much pressure, but when I scored it was probably the best moment of my life.”
 
After that goal, the celebration for Germany was on.  Not so for Blueger and Team Latvia.   The good times almost carried on for Germany, nearly shocking the world and hanging with Canada, but eventually falling 2-1.
 
Following the amazing World Championship run for Tiffels, the Penguins forward now turns his attention to the next phase of his career.  A participant in Pittsburgh’s development camp last month, Tiffels realizes his dreams of making the NHL include a first stop in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, but has been working this summer to get ready for the onset of his pro career.  With speed already a part of his game to go along with some good size (6-1, 201 lbs.), Tiffels is focused on the develop the cerebral element of the hockey skill set.
 
“I want to get better at everything, but I think I want to get smarter and making the right decisions on the ice.”
 
Though familiar with each other from past camps in Pittsburgh, Tiffels has yet to catch up with Blueger since that night at Lanxess Arena.  They will seem to have plenty of time to do so come Penguins training camp this fall.  Whether they reminisce or not, Tiffels will always have the fond memories of his entire World Championship experience. 
As one of the new guys on scene now with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Tiffels will to try to generate some more moments versus the rest of the AHL.

2017-18 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Season Ticket Information

BLUEGER JOINS TEAM LATVIA AFTER EXPECTATION-SHATTERING SEASON


Teddy Blueger joined the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins late last season after his college career came to a close. In the 20 games he played, he acclimated himself more than adequately with his responsible two-way game, but posted just one point in that time.

When he returned from a training camp injury to start his first full professional season, more of the same was expected from Blueger: stout defensive play, reliable penalty killing, modest offensive output.

He lived up to the first two of those expectations.

He absolutely crushed the third one.

Blueger concluded the 2016-17 season with 31 points (7G-24A) and added another tally in the playoffs.

“I was hoping to be a little more productive than last year,” Blueger said. “I don’t really think numbers always tell the whole story, so I don’t base my game on that. But it was nice to be able to contribute that way.”

His increased offense surely kept the higher-ups in the Penguins organization smiling, but it clearly turned heads back in his home country, too.

Not long after Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s season came to a close, the Latvian national team came calling. Blueger will spend the first few weeks of his offseason representing his home country at the IIHF World Championships.

He’s worn sweaters adorning the Latvian coat of arms multiple times before at lower level events, but this is the first time the honor comes on such a large stage.

Blueger (who will be playing under his given name, Teodors Bļugers,) hopes to use the forward steps he took this season in the AHL and apply them to his upcoming international hockey experience.

“I learned a lot this year,” Blueger said. “I enjoyed being given the chance to play in all situations. Even strength, P.K., power play, all that stuff. It was a great experience for me.”

Blueger’s bench boss with the Penguins, Clark Donatelli, reinforced those beliefs that the rookie centerman made the most of any new opportunities presented to him.

“I think he exceeded all expectations, of all of us, in terms of how he was going to do,” Donatelli said. “Teddy put the work in and got the results. Then the more we gave him, the more he took. When he was handed more responsibilities, he ate it up. He had a great year.”

Latvia’s tournament begins on Saturday, May 6 when it takes on Denmark in its first game of the preliminary round. Blueger and his fellow countrymen will face even tougher competition after that, being as Latvia occupies the same group as hockey powerhouses Sweden, Russia and the United States. Blueger’s first country will take on his adopted home on Saturday, May 13.

Regardless of how far the 12th-seeded Latvia goes in the tournament, Blueger won’t be off the ice for long afterwards. Always one of the last players to leave practice during the season for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Latvian rink rat wants to focus on refining his skills even more before next year.

“The biggest thing for me is my speed and explosiveness,” Blueger said. “If I could get a little bit quicker, I think that would go a long way for me in today’s game.”


Season ticket packages for the 2017-18 season are on sale now, and available by calling the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at 570-208-7367.

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2017-18 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Season Ticket Information