Three games, three wins and recently also beat Canada: The German ice hockey team is on a wave of success in the World Cup. The lot is reminiscent of the 2018 Olympics and now an NHL star has joined them.
When the hero of the evening was chosen after the historic ice hockey coup in the dressing room, Mathias Niederberger again cut a fine figure. The outstanding goalkeeper slipped into a brightly colored jacket – as a reward for his teammates. “It looked great to him with his Italian charm,” said defender Corbinian Holzer, laughing the morning after a 3–1 win against Canada.
On the road to sensational Olympic silver three years ago, the best player received the great papita cap of former national coach Zvere Nonsens after every game. At the World Cup in Riga, the prize is “a pretty pretty jacket”, says Holzer, who didn’t want to reveal too much: “It’s a bit wild, the color is like a disco ball.”
League leader ahead of USA and Canada
From the German point of view, the initial group B table is even more attractive than the said jacket. There, the DEB team is nine points ahead of hosts Latvia (seven points) and ice hockey major powers such as Finland (seven). USA (Six) First Place. Very few experts would have expected this constellation beforehand. And even less, Canada, the home country of ice hockey, is ranked seventh without points and is worried about moving forward.
Such problems are not troubling the German team at the moment. With a win against Kazakhstan on Wednesday (from 3:15 pm in the T-Online Live Ticker), DEB can also cement their place in the quarter-finals ahead of selection time.
An excellent support
Nidberger will once again play an important role in it. In any case, the look of the Berlin Master goalkeeper is superb. With 39 parades, some of them terrible, he won the first World Cup against Canada in 25 years – despite physical problems. “I had cramps after the second third,” told the 28-year-old, who likes to call herself “half-Italian” because of her mother from Milan.
“Maybe I tied my skates too tightly,” Neidberger said with laughter after his great performance and added more seriously: “But I was so into the river, that eventually there was no difference.”
After his sixth win in his seventh World Cup, he received accolades from all sides. Captain Moritz Muller said, “They just absorbed Pan, they stayed with him in his stomach.” And national coach Tony Soderholm did justice: “He read the game incredibly quickly, especially when he outnumbered, he was simply outstanding.”
Pure joy: German player after scoring 3–1 against Canada. (Source: Action Pictures / Imago Image)
Similarities between captain and Olympic sensation
Neidberger himself liked to talk about the whole team and his “Lion Heart”. A total of 35 shots were blocked by the men in front of him. “It usually hurts a lot,” Holzer said, “but nobody felt it yesterday.” Also because teammates cheer every block like a goal. “This team spirit, this solidarity is part of our DNA,” Neidberger said.
This is not the only reason Captain Muller sees a parallel to the Olympic sensation in PyeongChang. “It’s a special World Cup, a more balanced World Cup,” said the veteran, one of five silver heroes in the team, with a view to lacking big names from the NHL. The German selection is no longer “so complicated for the World Cup trip”; In South Korea in early 2018, “the confidence we have gained in ourselves” was decisive. Coaches like Marco Sturm then and now Soderholm “make us feel that we can play and as you can see we can”.
Now the first World Cup medal since 1953 is the big goal. But without NHL superstar Leon Drisatal, who announced his waiver from the World Cup after an initial play-off with the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday. In contrast, his club colleague Dominic Kahun is traveling to Riga. After quarantine, the 25-year-old could already be used at the end of the preliminary round – as the sixth Olympic hero in the German team.