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Ice Hockey World Championship: Serenity after World Cup exit: DEB team is heading in the right direction

Ice Hockey World Championship: Serenity after World Cup exit: DEB team is heading in the right direction

The German ice hockey team missed another World Cup highlight. Nevertheless, the future prospects are improving. The offense is top, but the defense lacked quality this time.

The German ice hockey stars did not want to see their quarter-final exit at the World Cup as a step backwards. After the 1:3 (0:2, 1:0, 0:1) defeat against Switzerland in Ostrava, Czech Republic, the players of national coach Harold Kreis consoled themselves with the basic direction that continues after winning World Cup silver last year.

Kreis believes that German ice hockey is “way ahead”. “We have confirmed the last World Championship,” the 65-year-old explained, despite the earlier elimination. What sounds strange may actually be true at second glance. For one thing, the top teams at this World Championship two years before the Olympics in Milan were much better equipped with NHL stars, and for another, it was almost enough to pull off another coup against the clearly favored arch-rivals from Switzerland. This would have confirmed the team’s rise to the extended world elite.

“At tournaments, it always depends on the line-ups. Who comes, who doesn’t?” said Kreis, who, unlike his Swiss colleague Patrick Fischer, was missing the national crème de la crème from the world’s best league, the NHL. “When I see that we can still bring in Leon, Mo and Stützi,” said Nico Sturm of the San Jose Sharks about the absence of the world-class trio Leon Draisaitl, Moritz Seider and Tim Stützle.

Out against a top team

Switzerland, on the other hand, had world-class players in the squad in Ostrava in the form of power defender Roman Josi (Nashville) and Kevin Fiala (Los Angeles). “We fought a tough battle against a top nation with all the top players,” emphasised striker JJ Peterka (Buffalo). In fact, the German Ice Hockey Federation’s selection was once again close to the top nations. “I don’t think we have to hide from anyone,” said Sturm.

However, the 2023 vice world champions are not yet on a par with Sweden, Canada and others. This was particularly evident in the 1:6 defeats in the preliminary round against the USA and Sweden. The absence of Seider was particularly noticeable there. Without the 23-year-old, the German defense was far too vulnerable in the tournament. The World Cup absence of Mannheim’s Leon Gawanke also hurt. “I don’t want to sell the guys who were here short,” replied NHL professional Sturm. “They did very, very well.”

The Berlin defense duo Kai Wissmann and Jonas Müller were convincing. The new Mannheim player Lukas Kälble showed a good level and North American professional Maskymilian Szuber, at 21 years old, will also develop into a good defender. But compared to the World Cup coup in 2023, the game-defining figure in the German defense was missing. Seider is irreplaceable for the DEB selection.

Good offensive power

This is also why the German team is not playing for medals this weekend in Prague. “There is no subscription for the quarter-finals, the semi-finals, the final,” said Kreis. Nevertheless, his team showed a new reality during the tournament. Against Latvia (8:1), Kazakhstan (8:2) and France (6:3), the German team now has the playing skills to take apart weaker opponents, even without the superstars. In the past, these duels were usually extremely close, and defeat was not uncommon. “It’s hard work,” explained the coach, but praised: “In terms of playing style and mentality, we have made progress.”

Sturm agrees. At the start of the tournament, the team was still struggling to properly assess the pressure after the runner-up World Cup. “We have learned to deal with the greater responsibility and higher expectations that we have of ourselves and to play with them,” said the top performer and explained: “It is not a process that is completed from one year to the next. The process will take a long time. Nevertheless, I believe that we did very well.”

The other hopefuls will also mature in the coming years. With five goals and four assists, Peterka not only confirmed his good 2023 World Cup, but also his strong NHL season with the Buffalo Sabres. At 22, the former Munich player is only just getting started, and quite a few experts expect the attacker to make the leap to the world’s top in the coming years. “Those are my expectations now. I want to be a player who makes the difference,” said Peterka.

Source: Stern

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