Germany take on Slovakia on Wednesday looking to recover from a 6-3 drubbing by Russia. One of the bright spots in that contest was a young forward almost nobody had expected much from - if they knew him at all.
"A great player. I have to admit, I didn't know him before now," veteran national team player Felix Schütz replied when asked about Frederik Tiffels in a live television interview during an intermission in Germany's last exhibition match before the start of the world championship.
The interviewer felt compelled to ask about about Tiffels as the 21-year-old had just scored a couple of goals in the game against Latvia that Germany would go on to win 3-2.
Those two goals and his performances in training camp and the pre-tournament exhibition games made it virtually impossible for head coach Marco Sturm to leave him off his roster for the world championship, being hosted this year by Cologne and Paris.
In the first three games of the world championship, the coach has had enough confidence in Tiffels to give him a regular shift, along with veteran linemates Patrick Reimer and Yasin Ehliz. In fact, Tiffels' icetime has increased with every game, starting with almost 12 minutes against the United States, over 13 minutes against Sweden, and almost 16 minutes against the Russians, when the Germans went down by two forwards early in the contest.
In the final minute against Russia, Tiffels paid back coach Sturm's trust, scoring his first-ever goal at a world championship - in his hometown, where he learned the game in the youth program of the local professional club, the Cologne Sharks.
"Of course it was a great feeling but of course I would have preferred it to have come in a win," Tiffels said.
Asked how disappointed he was by the lopsided score against the Russians, Tiffels seemed to say all the right things.
"A defeat is always bitter, as an athlete you always want to win, even against a top nation you want to make an impact. We didn't manage this today, partly because we showed a little too much respect for our opponents at the beginning and we also had to kill a lot of penalties early in the game," he said.
Praise from the coach and the captain
Tiffels, who plays for Western Michigan University in the United States, also seems to be on the same page as Sturm, who told reporters after the Russian game that while he was pleased with much of what his team was doing, there was still a lot of room for improvement.
"We have to get better, I think we are still some way away from playing was well as we are capable of as a team," Tiffels said. And with a view to Germany's next Group A game against Slovakia on Wednesday night he said that "if each of us plays as well as he can, if we all play to our maximum" they should be able to get a result.
For his part, Sturm was full of praise for the world championship debutant.
"Fredi is giving us more than we had expected. Some of the others could learn a thing or two from him. He always goes all out," the coach said.
"Fredi is an important part of our team. He has the sort of speed that hardly any of the rest of us has," said the captain, Christian Ehrhoff, who played his first game of the tournament against Russia after recovering from an upper-body injury.
In fact, Tiffels' pace and the way he can vary that speed has been seen as his main asset. The knock on him had been his lack of offensive production, but this has improved since he joined Western Michigan three seasons ago.
Sixth-round draft choice
While nobody at the tournament seemed to have heard of Tiffels, whose brother Dominik plays in the DEL, Germany's top professional league, the scouts in the United States had long had him on their radar, and at the 2015 National Hockey League draft, the Pittsburgh Penguins made him their sixth-round selection.
In the past, some players that weren't all that well known have managed to use the world championship as a springboard to a professional contract, however Tiffels brushed off the notion.
"I'm not thinking that far ahead," he said. "Right now I just want to help the team, and after that we'll see what comes along after that."
Whatever his future holds, Tiffels is definitely determined to make his mark between now and whenever Germany is eliminated from the world championship in his hometown.
"I hope that by the end of the tournament everybody here will know who I am," he said with a smile.