CEDAR RAPIDS – It’s time to meet Frederik Tiffels, hockey vagabond.
The 18-year-old center’s extensive journeys this season began at home in Cologne, Germany. He came overseas to play in Muskegon, Mich., then headed west and north to Fargo, N.D.
Friday night found him in Cedar Rapids, of all places, a two-week member of the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, who beat Green Bay, 4-3 before 3,059 fans at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena.
Tiffels assisted on Mark Auk's winning goal with 1:56 left. He has a goal and three assists in three games.
“It’s been pretty easy because every team has nice people,” Tiffels said. “But it has been hard to move from billet family to billet family. I think that was the most difficult part for me.”
Tiffels played last season for the Muskegon Lumberjacks, becoming what he believes to be the first German to play in the United States Hockey League. But he requested a trade early this season, which is how he ended up a member - albeit briefly - of the Fargo Force.
In search of a spark for his struggling team, Riders Coach/General Manager Mark Carlson dealt three-year forward Jack Rowe to Fargo to acquire Tiffels before Christmas. While Rowe played immediately for the Force, Tiffels didn’t join the RoughRiders until two weeks ago because he was representing his home country in the prestigious World Junior Championships in Sweden.
“We would have liked to have gotten him in here right away,” Carlson said. “But that provided a good opportunity for a lot of other guys.”
And a great opportunity for Tiffels. He scored three goals and had five points in seven games for Germany, which won twice in the tournament.
Succeeding on a world stage showed his abilities.
“A lot of fun,” Tiffels said. “First two games were bad … We lost to Slovakia, 9-2, I think. That was really bad. We were not a team at the beginning. But the coach came in after that second game and said it was time to get together and start all over again. As the tournament went on, we became a team, and it paid off in the end. Our goal was to be a top-10 nation, and that’s what we accomplished.”
Germany isn’t known as a hotbed for hockey, but the sport is growing there. Tiffels had an opportunity to play Major Junior for Moose Jaw of the Western Hockey League but decided he would come to the States instead.
Three Germans have followed him to the USHL: Janik Moeser (Muskegon), Marcel Kurth (Des Moines) and Kevin Reich (Dubuque).
“I had played over here in tournaments for my German (national) team,” he said. “But last year was my first full year in America. It was an awesome experience, but it was also hard for me because I went to high school last year. My English wasn’t that good in the beginning, so that was difficult. But as time went on, I think I started doing pretty good.”
He has committed to play college hockey at Western Michigan, though it’s uncertain if that will be next season or the season after that.
“I wanted to go to college,” he said. “For me, I think that’s the best way. It’s two ways. The hockey is good and studying is good. That was the main reason I came over here. And it’s giving me more time to develop as a player."
“I think he brings a lot of things,” Carlson said. “He works extremely hard. He has great speed, is real heavy on the puck. He can make plays, will be a team guy. He’ll play special teams, do a lot of things for us.”
Cedar Rapids (18-13-1, 37 points) moved into a third-place tie with Green Bay in the USHL's Eastern Conference. The RoughRiders built a 2-0 lead on first-period goals from Alec Marsh and Mitch Maloney, watched Green Bay score three times, then tied it up with 5:55 left on Maloney's second goal.
They host Chicago on Saturday night at approximately 7:15. Here is the official gamesheet: