Toni Soderholm left it up to his players how they want to shake their heads and bones after the 5-3 win over Canada: with a soccer match, outside on artificial turf; Or with some easy skating courses and shooting exercises in the gym. Just 24 hours after the opening World Cup defeat in Helsinki to the world champions, the German national ice hockey team had to play again on Saturday night, this time against Slovakia. So the most important preparatory unit the national coach had previously set was on dry ground: tactical behavior when the number is too low.
Against Canada, Söderholm’s team conceded two goals in three cases, many of which could not keep their goal against the physically fit Slovaks in a match that was supposed to be physical. “It takes a while for it to outnumber, but we’ll take our time,” said NHL defender Moritz Seider. He promised: “We will shoot from the gate with a better start and then it will be an exciting match.”
Cedar was right. After 60 minutes of breathless the score was 2:1 (0:0, 2:1, 0:0) – the first victory for the German national team in this World Cup. “This was probably the highest level since I’ve been here in terms of speed, not just manpower,” Soderholm said. “From the goalkeeper to the fourth grader, everyone worked with passion. Emotions, duels, everything was fine.”
Slovak shots kept safe by goalkeeper Grobauer
One can expect a duel between two teams at eye level, Slovakia, eighth in the world rankings, against Germany ninth, one with an average height of 1.85 meters, the other one inch shorter. The match against the bronze medalist at the Olympic Games in Beijing can also be intensified into a duel between very talented players. On the German side, 20-year-old Tim Stutzel has been a striker in the world’s top ice hockey league for nearly two years and was named third by the Ottawa Senators in 2020, just before the German beat him: Leon Drystel. And with Slovakian Juraj Slafkovsky, the cool 18-year-old from Kosice, who is still under contract with TPS Turku in Finland and is traded to the next NHL draft in the summer at a similar level to Stützle. Slavkovsky’s star rose sharply at the Olympics in February: the 99-kilogram youngster scored seven goals in seven matches. On the way to the bronze medal, the Slovaks also eliminated the German team (4:0).
Söderholm chose the same lineup as the night before, so again with Philipp Grobauer (Seattle) in goal. He was busy, but didn’t intervene after six seconds like Friday. His opponent Patrick Ribar was also on the move, because the German team had listened to their coach: “You can’t defend yourself in the defensive zone all the time and expect to win, that’s not possible,” Soderholm warned. Thus a fast and balanced initial phase developed with advantages for Slovakia, but without the really big opportunities. DEB mostly carefully blocked the area in front of goal, and the Slovaks’ shots from the side or from distance were safely protected by Grubauer. The German team missed its biggest chance when it was allowed to play with a two-minute majority: the discus ran, but he didn’t shoot on goal, neither from Stützles’ racket nor anyone else. After 20 minutes it was still 0-0.
Better, much better, they did after the first half. Matthias Plachta bravely carried the disc to the opposite third, and put it in the net to defender Moritz Muller, who ran with him, but the captain did not have to do this anymore: if it was not from a German racket, the disc found its way into the net from the face of the Slovak racket. The goal was officially scored for Plachta (22′). There was no question of shooting after five minutes. 2 against 1 attack by the Germans by Leo Pföderl, Marcel Noebels’ shot, Rybar’s save, Pföderl’s counterattack, goal (27). Thanks to his superb defense with the foot, Grobauer drew a huge exclamation mark behind him soon after: Germany were up 2-0!
The Slovakian team, coached by a Canadian since 2017, is still finding itself
The Slovaks struggled in their first match for a 4-2 win over France, one of the substitutes for the suspended teams Russia and Belarus, temporarily relinquishing a 2-0 lead in the process. The team, which has been looked after by Canadian coach Craig Ramsey, 71, since 2017, is still researching. Peter Celerik and captain Marek Hrivik, your top scorer in the 2021 World Cup, are missing from the Olympic team. It was hardly seen until then.
Instead, Christian Pospisil (32) drew attention to himself, who beat Grubauer with his old “pawn trick” to make the score 2-1. There was the opportunity to immediately correct the situation: 5: 3 for the German national team, which led to two goals against Canada. But the Slovaks also fought with passion. Stützle’s Rybar saves, and the question was whether the next goal would be the equalizer – or the initial decision. Thrilling? Thrilling!
If the game was strong up until then, it is now a high pressure tank. Grubauer saved once, twice, three times, with and without the stick. Then the Germans had to show if they had woken up in the morning: Powerplay Slovakia. outnumbered them. Three for five for 46 seconds. Then 1:14 minutes four for five. Or: Five against Groupauer. Finished. Time to catch your breath? not a second. The match did not seem to allow itself a break, it continued uninterrupted, and because Alexander Ayl (49) also missed his chance, it continued until the 50th minute, when Grobauer hit the 25th shot on goal. In the end it was 29, and goal scorer Pföderl was very impressed: “The kicks come on goal and you think you’re kissing my butt – and he’s laughing at his ass.”
The Slovaks ran nonstop, the German team could hardly free itself, and it became rustic. But she had a grupauer. And the necessary luck was when the Slovaks made the last seconds longer without a goalkeeper and six field players. Germany has the first points and meets France on Monday. It will definitely be exciting again.