A throbbing victory ends a close series
Eisbären Berlin storms to the championship
The German ice hockey league rushes Eisbären Berlin into a closely timed final series. But the defending champion breaks through: After a defeat in the beginning, the capital wins two close matches and finally crowns itself as champion for the ninth time with a clear victory.
National goalkeeper Mathias Niederberger showed one of his most spectacular performances at his farewell performance for ice hockey champion Eisbären Berlin. Ironically, Niederberger with his presumably future employer EHC Red Bull Munich were match winners in the fourth playoff final of the magnificent Berlin 5: 0 (1: 0, 3: 0, 1: 0).
After the ninth title victory for the record champions of the German ice hockey league, the Berlin fielders euphorically plunged onto the ice, threw off their helmets and canes and stormed towards Niederberger. “It was perhaps the best match I have ever seen from him,” cheered Eisbären champion coach Serge Aubin at MagentaSport, and his Munich colleague Don Jackson also praised appreciatively: “He was the big difference, without a doubt.” The former Berlin head coach could still be happy: Niederberger is set to play for the EHC next season. “I gave everything I had,” the goalkeeper said.
In addition to the 29-year-old from Düsseldorf in the Berlin Tor, relentless efficiency and experienced old stars stood for the decisive third victory in the best-of-five series. At 22.09, the polar bears cheered in a golden shower of confetti in Munich with the championship trophy. Shortly before, the 37-year-old defender Frank Hördler had been named the most valuable player in the DEL playoffs. Three goals from Matthew White (9th / 37th / 60th minute) and additional goals from Frans Nielsen (25th) and Marcel Noebels (26th) secured the necessary third victory in the final series. With their ninth title, the Polar Bears passed the eight-time champions Düsseldorf, Cologne and Mannheim, all or some of whom still earned their titles in the former Bundesliga.
The Berliners confirmed the title from last year, which was won under other conditions. With even stricter corona rules, the recent season took place without spectators. A year ago, in the playoffs, only two wins were needed to advance or win the title. Meanwhile, fans have long since been locked into the halls again, and the 5,533 spectators in the sold-out little Munich Olympia Hall provided a more atmospheric championship setting than in 2021. Audiences were quickly confused by the calm and confident polar bear. Even FC Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann in the crowd did not bring good luck to the EHC.
Disassembly in the middle third
The home team started strong but tensed up too quickly under pressure to win at any cost. The early turning point in the match was the ninth minute: An EHC goal by Justin Schütz was correctly rejected due to Niederberger’s handicap. Shortly afterwards, the Berliners struck. White used a dream pass from veteran Frank Hördler, who was strong in the playoffs. This had an effect. But the polar bears became more confident.
In the middle section, an ice-cold double blow from the polar bears made the preliminary decision. First, the now 38-year-old longtime Danish NHL star Nielsen met for the third time in the final series. Only 51 seconds later, national striker Noebels increased. Most recently, after another brilliant action by Niederberger in the 35th minute against Ben Street, it seemed clear: EHC must continue to wait for the fourth title victory. Again, White with a rejected shot and a shot in the empty net in the last minute made the Berlin final victory perfect after four out of five possible matches.
National coach Toni Söderholm should also have been happy about this: From the two final teams, more than a dozen players could join the squad for the World Cup in Finland (13 to 29 May) next week.