DEB escapes the Stützle horror
Germany bite impressively in the World Cup
By Tobias Nordman
May 17, 2022, at 18.08
Germany must cope with a brief shock at the World Ice Hockey Championship: Tim Stützle, the young leader, must leave the ice early against France. But apparently his injury is not too serious. The Meister Berlin players could smell victory in the air.
The question of what is currently prevailing on the German national ice hockey team, relief or concern, was answered on Tuesday afternoon. The pendulum swung in the direction of relief. Not final, but massively urgent. Because Tim Stützle, the spectacular talent from the NHL, had previously created anxious World Cup moments. The 20-year-old, who has so far shouldered DEB’s offensive play so impressively, had to come off the ice in the first third of the match against France on Monday. He had received a hard check on the knee. The question that arose: can he return again in the tournament? The first answer: doubtful.
On the free Tuesday, the first was completely ready. “It looks pretty good. We watch from day to day,” said the sports director of the German Ice Hockey Federation, Christian Künast, the German press agency. A bet in the further course of the tournament is “likely”. The association did not announce a diagnosis. “He is in very good hands at our medical department, we are waiting and seeing the next few days,” Künast said. For national coach Toni Söderholm’s team, the knockout for Stützle would have been further bad news on the way back to the world top, ie in the elite circle in which they had played at the last World Cup, before there was a brutal damper at the Olympics. Instead of playing for gold, Germany were out of the competition before the quarter-finals. A lot was questioned. Fortunately, not everything.
For so much had not gone wrong in German ice hockey in recent years. A remarkable increase began under coach Marco Sturm, which Söderholm could continue to refine. Despite recurring setbacks. Before the World Cup in his home country, the Finns again received several bad news. For example, NHL-experienced Tom Kühnhackl (Stanley Cup champion), Tobias Rieder and Dominik Kahun are missing. Even top players from DEL like Frederik Tiffels and Patrick Hager are not available. It is so much the more amazing how well Germany has played its way through this World Cup so far.
Niederberger also trumps
The DEB team was clearly inferior to Canada (3: 5) for a long time, but not without a chance. The cracks played furiously against Slovakia, winning 2-1 and thus successfully took revenge for the knockout at the Winter Games. Even more important for the course of the tournament: the 3-2 work victory against France. Why? Because Germany consistently resisted, played bravely, quickly, creatively and defended passionately. With 60 minutes played, the home side managed to get a 1 – 0 lead as Mathias Niederberger flipped the ball in after a cross from the right. The team can claim that it learned impressively fast from the mistakes of the Olympic debacle. Without combat, concentration and body tension up to the last siren, games in major tournaments can rarely be won, if at all. In the third preliminary round of the World Cup, the balance between enthusiasm and madness was perfect.
Niederberger came on for NHL goalkeeper Philipp Grubauer, who was excellent against Slovakia. The goalkeepers form the strong foundation of the German game. Before that, Moritz Seider was thrilled. The 21-year-old is in defense what Stützle was and should remain in the attack: the leader. The team in Beijing, for example, lacked the courage, carelessness and pace of youth. And because these qualities are so incredibly good, DEB is still hoping for the nominations of defender Leon Gawanke and striker Lukas Reichel from the AHL. “Both are exceptional players in German ice hockey,” said Moritz Müller. A decision should be made no later than Wednesday, a day later the fourth round match against Denmark is planned (15.20 live on Sport1 and in the live ticker on ntv.de), another key game in the battle for the quarter-final ticket.
For the time being, the national trainer can and must rely on his Berlin war horses. Above all to Leo Pföderl, who has been one of the established forces in the DEB team for years, but may never have been as important as at the moment. Against France, he made the victory clear thanks to a perfect pass from his polar bear friend Marcel Noebels. It was already his fifth scoring point in this tournament. “Berliners, it’s crazy,” excited Söderholm, who is not necessarily known for singing such hymns. Little spoiler: he only raved briefly. That the players of the reigning champions deliver like that is not a matter of course. The DEL champion’s cracks did not always manage to prevent a voltage drop after the party and before the World Cup.
Pföderl, more important than ever
Five polar bears sob in the German squad – and they all contribute to the team successfully gliding across the ice again. In addition to Pföderl, whose videos are circulating showing him barefoot and with a beer bottle in public at the championship celebrations a few days before the start of the World Cup, there are also the experienced Noebels, defenders Jonas Müller and Kai Wissmann and Niederberger. But the match winner against France stands out: Pföderl, Söderholm calls him one of the “smartest German players” – and the most successful. He is the team’s top scorer after the first three games.
Noebels and Pföderl, who form a World Cup series with AHL striker Marc Michaelis, know each other inside and out. Already in the spectacular 2: 1 against Slovakia, a combination of the duo led to a goal. “You can be sure you convey it. A tournament like this is like another championship,” Noebels said. Regardless of the strength of the Berliners, the team puts all hope in a lightning recovery from Stützle. “Timmy is one of our best players. Of course it would be bitter,” said Captain Müller before the redemptive message from the medical department. The responsibility he assumes is “incredible”. A real leader. Someone who can keep going.