HERNING, Denmark - While seven National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) alumni are still battling for the Stanley Cup, seven other former NCHC players will attempt to win a gold medal at the 2018 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Men’s World Championship in Denmark, which begins on Friday, May 4 and runs through May 20.
Five players: forward Blake Coleman (Miami), defensemen Will Butcher (Denver), Jordan Oesterle (Western Michigan) and Neal Pionk (Minnesota Duluth), and goaltender Charlie Lindgren (St. Cloud State) will suit up for the Stars and Stripes, while forward Tyson Jost (North Dakota) will play for his native Canada and forward Frederik Tiffels (WMU) for his native Germany. In addition, former St. Cloud State defenseman Nick Jensen and former Miami blue liner Alec Martinez were named to Team USA’s roster, while Team Canada has a pair of former Colorado College Tigers in forward Jaden Schwartz and goaltender Curtis McElhinney.
Butcher (Sun Prairie, Wis.) was the NCHC’s first Hobey Baker Award winner, claiming college hockey’s top honor in 2017, when he was also the NCHC Player of the Year, a First-Team All-American and a national champion. He compiled 103 career points in 158 games at Denver from 2013-17. In his first NHL season this past year, Butcher racked up 44 points, including 39 assists, in 81 games for the New Jersey Devils, also helping them make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, chipping in a goal and three assists before falling to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Joining Butcher in Denmark is his Devils teammate in Coleman (Plano, Texas), who tallied a career-best 25 points on 13 goals and 12 assists in 79 games in his second NHL season. He also added two goals in the playoffs against the Lightning. Coleman was named Most Outstanding Player of the 2015 NCHC Frozen Faceoff, leading Miami to the tournament title as a senior, while he compiled 107 career points, including 60 goals, in his 143-game Miami career from 2011-15.
Oesterle (Dearborn Heights, Mich.) played three seasons at Western Michigan from 2011-14, including his final season in the NCHC’s inaugural season when he tallied a career-high 17 points. He finished with 34 career points, including seven goals, in 113 games played at WMU. Oesterle played his first three professional seasons in the Edmonton Oilers organization, playing in 25 games for the NHL club, before appearing in 55 games for the Chicago Blackhawks this season and tallying a career-high 15 points, including his first five NHL goals.
Pionk (Hermantown, Minn.) is coming off his first professional season after two seasons at Minnesota Duluth (2015-17). A Second-Team All-NCHC selection in 2016-17, Pionk totaled 51 career points in 82 career games from the UMD blue line, while helping the Bulldogs win the 2017 NCHC Frozen Faceoff and earn national runner-up honors. In his first season in the NHL, Pionk played in 28 games for the New York Rangers after signing as an undrafted free agent, scoring a goal and adding 13 assists, while also playing 48 games for Hartford in the AHL.
Lindgren (Lakeville, Minn.) played three years at St. Cloud State from 2013-16 – the first three seasons of NCHC competition. He was named First-Team All-NCHC, First-Team All-American and NCHC Goaltender of the Year in his final campaign, posting a .925 save percentage and a 2.13 goals-against average with a 30-9-1 record to help SCSU win the NCHC Frozen Faceoff. Lindgren has played in 17 career NHL games for the Montreal Canadiens, including 14 this past season, logging a 3.03 GAA and a .908 save percentage.
A late addition to Canada’s roster, Jost (St. Albert, Alberta) spent one season at North Dakota in 2016-17, compiling 35 points in 33 games and earning NCHC All-Rookie Team honors. In his first full professional season in 2017-18, he appeared in 65 games for the Colorado Avalanche, racking up 12 goals and 22 points, while also helping the Avalanche make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Tiffels (Cologne, Germany) played three seasons at Western Michigan from 2014-17, racking up 59 career points, including 27 goals, in 105 career games. In his first professional season this past year after signing with the Pittsburgh Penguins organization, Tiffels split time between the AHL and ECHL, totaling 33 points in 44 ECHL contests. The Cologne native also played in last year’s IIHF World Championship for Germany, scoring two goals in eight games.
Also on Team USA, Jensen played at SCSU for three seasons from 2010-13 and has spent the last two seasons playing for the Detroit Red Wings, dishing out 15 assists in 81 games this past season. Martinez was a three-year standout blue liner at Miami from 2005-08, and has won two Stanley Cups with the Los Angeles Kings (2012 and 2014), having played for L.A. his entire NHL career starting in 2009.
Also on Team Canada, Schwartz played two seasons at Colorado College from 2010-12 before joining the St. Louis Blues in the NHL, where he has played the last six seasons, including tallying 59 points this past campaign. McElhinney was a four-year goaltender for the Tigers from 2001-05 and has played for five NHL teams, including with the Toronto Maple Leafs the last two seasons, posting a 2.15 GAA and a .934 save percentage in 18 games this season.
Team USA is coached by former Miami assistant and former Western Michigan head coach Jeff Blashill, who is now the head coach of the Detroit Red Wings.
The 2018 IIHF World Championship runs from May 4-20 in Herning and Copenhagen, Denmark. Team USA faces host Denmark in an exhibition game on Tuesday, May 1 at 2:30 p.m. ET, before beginning Group B play against Canada on Friday, May 4 at 10:15 a.m. ET. Germany is also in Group B and opens with host Denmark on May 4. The U.S., Canada and Germany, who all play each other, will also face Latvia, South Korea, Norway and Finland in preliminary group play through May 15, before the quarterfinals begin on May 17. All of Team USA, Team Canada and Team Germany’s group play games take place in Herning, while the semifinals and medal-round games are in Copenhagen May 19-20. All of Team USA’s games can be seen live on NHL Network, while all of Team Canada's games will be shown live on TSN.