Berlin – German ice hockey has new heroes again. Like the 2018 Olympic Games in South Korea, the whole country is excited with the DEB team for the World Cup in Latvia. Especially when it comes to the final against Finland on Saturday (5.15pm, Sport1). And just like three-and-a-half years ago, when the German skate crack fought its way to the final against Canada, the 43-year-old national coach Tony Soderholm’s team can do anything against the defending champions. Which is also due to the fact that a lot of polar bear DNA drives this team. “I am very proud of my boys and happy to have German ice hockey,” says 55-year-old EHC sports director Stefan Richter.
Goalkeeper Mathias Niederberger is as safe support as ever
In a 3-2 penalty thriller against Switzerland, Leon Gawanke gathered all his courage 44 seconds before the final siren and shot the puck into the goal to equalize. The 22-year-old Berlin-born last played for the Manitoba Moose in the American Hockey League and dreamed of promotion to the NHL. But his heart is still attached to home. He played for EHC at the start of the season, before moving back to Canada, for which he played for several years in his youth.
Even after the championship, the polar bear lifted its 28-year-old keeper, Mathias Niederberger, onto the shield. Because no title can be won without goalkeeper in the form of life insurance. In Riga he went a step further. Not only with the parade fireworks against Canada (3:1) in the preliminary round, he has honestly earned his nickname, Crack. “What sets him apart is the fact that he makes the right decisions,” says Richer. Even in difficult games against Latvia (2:1) and now against Switzerland, he showed himself to be a quiet haven and cut down opposing attacks. Hardly anyone in Riga thinks of Philippe Grubauer, 29, who excels in the NHL and is playing for the title with Colorado in the pay-offs.
Over the past season, several hymns of praise have already been received for the polar bear parade line. But all three Marcel Noables, Leo Fodrel and Lucas Reichl show in the current EM that they are currently playing in a real frenzy. Pföderl, 27, may not be as powerful as the EHC jersey (two World Cup goals so far). The fact that he was hailed as the Most Valuable Player in the crucial game against the hosts, where there was also a preliminary round knockout, shows his importance.
Buddy Reichl, 19, didn’t let himself down when he hit the head hard in a Kazakhstan game. He had to give up a game, and since then he has been spinning as if nothing had happened. He almost made the decision in overtime against Switzerland, but could not counterattack. With his pace and six scoring points, he is still the best self-promotion, after the World Cup he would sign an NHL contract with the Chicago Blackhawks. Richter: “You quickly saw he had a lot of talent. But everyone can see at this World Cup that he has what it takes for the NHL.”
Noables’ Punishment: “An Incredible Step”
The 29-year-old Noables crowned a season that can confidently be described as magical, in which he won 3-2 against Switzerland with an almost unbelievable penalty hit. Even national coach Söderholm, a Finn regarded as having a reserved disposition, could not return. “It was a goal you could stamp on – an incredible move,” praised the head of the successful German ice cream gang. With three goals and five assists, Knoebbels is also Germany’s most successful tournament scorer.
And then there’s a polar bear that holds its gates for a very special moment. The 25-year-old defender Jonas Müller scored 3-2 in the Olympic final (56th). At that time it was missing 55.5 seconds to fall asleep. After equalizing, Russia managed to win in overtime.
With the Russians already out in Riga, Müller will try to shoot his team again for victory. Maybe even for the world title. It is now permissible to dream of it. Richter adds: “You can see that Germany can now adjust to everyone. It’s a great development.”