The German ice hockey team is threatened with a false start to the World Cup against the top nations. The hard opening program is also causing problems for the new national coach. The demands of the players remain high.
Many injured, difficult start: The World Cup debut for national ice hockey coach Harold Kreis could hardly be trickier.
In particular, the tough opening program in Tampere against eleven-time world champion Sweden on Friday (7.20 p.m.), against defending champion and host Finland just 24 hours later (7.20 p.m.) and on Monday against the USA (3.20 p.m. / all Sport1 and MagentaSport) keeps the team and coach busy for days. NHL star Moritz Seider spoke of “absolute boards”, goalkeeper Mathias Niederberger of a “direct challenge” and striker Marcel Noebels confessed to the prospect of being without points after three games: “Of course that’s in the room.”
Mental trainer should help
In order not to lose sight of the minimum goal of the quarter-finals set by the German Ice Hockey Federation, the new national coach even relies on psychological help. “We have a mental coach with us who has been working with the players for a long time,” said Kreis of the German Press Agency. “Of course it’s also about how we deal with it if we don’t have a point after three games.”
In order to prevent the first World Cup under Kreis from becoming a flop, the pressure afterwards against the supposedly easier opponents Denmark, Austria, Hungary and France would be immense. “Everything is at stake in the four games after that,” said Noebels.
The great World Cup hopeful Seider, for whom it is still unclear after only a few sessions with the team whether he can play directly on Friday, therefore noted: “If you want to get to the quarter-finals, you have to steal a few points against these nations. We’ve proven many times in the past that we can do that.”
At the beginning of a World Cup, the top nations are often not that strong and only develop gradually. Sweden, for example, started 2021 in Riga with two surprising defeats against Denmark and Belarus and was about to be eliminated from the preliminary round. Also this year, the Tre Kronors are missing a number of top stars from the NHL that are actually available. “Maybe we can benefit from that,” said Seider.
Striker shortage in the DEB team
However, the question arises as to who should score the goals against the stronger opponents. This problem was already indicated in the last World Cup test on Tuesday against the USA. At 3:6, the German goals came late, despite the best chances in some cases, when the USA had already finished the game.
Only two of the top ten German goal scorers of the past DEL season are in the World Cup squad. Some are injured. Kreis, on the other hand, deliberately decided against others such as Daniel Schmölz (Nuremberg), Maxi Kammerer (Cologne), Dominik Bokk (Frankfurt) or Tobias Eder (Düsseldorf). “Of course we acknowledge that these players scored goals, but the game consists of more than scoring goals,” said the 64-year-old in an interview with the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung”.
Lots of cancellations due to injuries
The experienced long-time DEL coach cannot do anything for a total of 15 cancellations due to injuries. Nevertheless, the German-Canadian will have to be measured against the target. “There are the goals of the association that are known to everyone: to reach the quarter-finals and direct qualification for the Olympics. Internally, we said with the team that we want maximum success – no matter what it looks like,” said Kreis der dpa.
Because the team developed a rather bold self-image in the successful years under his predecessors Marco Sturm and Toni Söderholm. “It can also be more if it’s up to me,” said NHL striker and Stanley Cup winner Nico Sturm, even a World Cup newcomer, in relation to the goals. “We have made a development in German ice hockey and of course we wish that the path will continue with him,” said captain Moritz Müller to Kreis.
The national coach does not feel any pressure. “I don’t think it’s unrealistic,” Kreis told dpa about the goals. “That’s why we’re talking about maximum success. We’ll have to see how we cope as the tournament progresses.” Given the opening program, the reality of his World Cup debut could quickly look different.
I am Pierce Boyd, a driven and ambitious professional working in the news industry. I have been writing for 24 Hours Worlds for over five years, specializing in sports section coverage. During my tenure at the publication, I have built an impressive portfolio of articles that has earned me a reputation as an experienced journalist and content creator.