Sometimes it is not enough to know everything about your opponent in the game. Because theory is one thing, practical implementation is another. The Finnish national coach of the German national ice hockey team, Tony Soderholm, knew what his team would expect at the World Cup in Latvia on Saturday evening – after all, it was against his home country, with whom he himself won a silver medal. In 2007 the player “I know how ice hockey Finland thinks,” said Söderholm before a duel with the world champion.
The Finns played exactly as expected from Söderholm: disciplined, teamwork, tactical, running and physically strong. The German Ice Hockey Federation (DEB) team also performed well – but lost 1: 2. It was the second consecutive tournament defeat after 2: 3 against newly promoted Kazakhstan. In the final two group matches against the United States (Monday, 3.15pm) and hosts Latvia (Tuesday, 7.15pm), the DEB team will now also have to deal with the pressure of the quarter-finals, despite starting with three wins from Canada. Including 3-1 against, can still be flute. “We can’t think much of it right now,” said attacker Tobias Ryder. “It’s not over yet,” said interim equalizer defender Corbinian Holzer.
Söderholm said that at the end of the group stage no team felt fresh. Now “everybody needs to take the next step”, he demanded – especially mentally, because what is happening now is “really a matter of the head”.
Dominic Kahun is considered to be a help against the onset of fatigue. “It will give us even more momentum,” says the national coach
There were nine goals in the first World Cup game (against Italy), then five (against Norway), three (Canada), two (Kazakhstan) and now only one – a steady decline in German goal scoring during the tournament, which was a lot. The quality that the opponent had to do with it became more after the initial games. Perhaps the “last push” was aggressively missing, Söderholm said after the Finland game. Defender Moritz Cedar insisted that it would be “just to score goals” against the United States. “We’re having a little hard time getting this thing in line.” Ideally, Dominic Kahun can help on Mondays. As of Saturday, Söderholm did not think with whom the Edmonton Oilers striker would consistently play, but he is confident that Kahun “will give us even more momentum offensively”.
Whether Lucas Reichel is an option on Monday is still open. The 19-year-old attacker, who starred very clearly in the first three matches in the Berlin series with Marcel Noebels and Leo Fodderl, halted against Finland after a check against his head in a Kazakhstan game. Soderholm reported that Reichel was doing very well after training on Saturday. The investigation conducted by the team of doctors and physiotherapists on Sunday should bring clarity. The top saying goes: “His health is paramount,” the national coach emphasized.
Söderholm’s answer to the question of why his team had so few chances against Finland was obvious: “Because we played against a very structured, very good team that didn’t allow much.” You have to come up with a lot of speed to dent the Finns’ defense, “maybe we weren’t at the level we want to be.” The DEB statisticians counted fifteen German goal scoring opportunities (according to the World Association IIHF 13 Shots on Goal), internationally the value is fine, with Soderholm saying, “You don’t get more than that.” Especially against the Finns, who scored just five goals in their first four tournament games. “Even when our defenders shot through the blue line, a shot was rarely found,” said John-Jason Peterka of Munich, with Andreas Eder and Daniel Fishbuch making their World Cup debuts.
“Every disc is a good disc for goal,” recalls goal scorer Holzer
For a long time, the DEB team struggled to get any deal. With his combination of team unity, toughness, technique and tactical understanding, the Finns demonstrated why Holzer had described him as a “very unpleasant” opponent. All of this complements Zucca Jalonen’s team with extreme speed: “About four orbits faster than normal” is the pace, Strabbing’s striker Eder wondered. When Cedar was to go to the penalty bench, the Finns had an eight-second number to mark 1-0 (7th). The goal scorer was 19-year-old attacker Anton Lundell.
In the middle third, the German team struck a better rapport with the world champions – and suddenly equalized. Holzer’s shot from the blue line hit the net with some surprise, as Finnish goalkeeper Jussi Olkinuora was ejected (28th) by Holzer’s defense colleague Moritz Müller. “Every disc for a goal is a good disc,” reminded Holzer, who had already scored against Canada (in the blank goal), a basic rule.
The intensity increased again in the final 20 minutes. But the Finns took advantage of German recklessness in neutral territory for decisive 2: 1 by Arttu Ruotsalainen (52nd). Soderholm said he accepted an “annoying” goal: “These are things that can happen when you’re tired.” Fatigue must now be overcome quickly – or deal with it well. Prior to the two quarter-finals, Söderholm insisted that he “should be able to make the right decisions even when weary”.