Moritz Muller patted his heart with his fist and seemed to be in love with his colleagues who had lined up a few meters away from him. The captain of the German ice hockey team had just come off the bench to take home the award for the best German player in the game. His left hand was bandaged, which explained why he was standing there in shorts and running shoes: Muller could not finish Germany’s last World Cup match in Riga (Latvia) because he had injured his hand during a valiant rescue. When he held the award in his good hand, his teammates hugged and loved him. Once again, Mueller was about to cry.
The German team lost the third-place match on Sunday 1:6 to the USA, thus losing their first World Cup medal in 68 years. “Today was not our day,” said national team coach Toni Soderholm. “Yesterday was our day, but unfortunately we didn’t win there.” 24 hours ago, his team lost the semi-final despite a strong performance against defending champion Finland (1:2).
At the World Cup, the German national team put their complexes, as captain Muller confirms
Canada became the world champion with their final 3-2 victory after extra time against the Finns. The Canadians were crowned with a raucous championship run: for the first time in the history of the ice hockey motherland, they lost their first three World Cup matches, including 1:3 against Germany. On the last day of the group, they had to rely on the German national team and not enter hosts Latvia for extra time. Germany won by nearly 2-1 – the Canadians fell to the quarter-finals in fourth place in the group. There they eliminated the favorite Russian national team in extra time, followed by victories over the United States and Finland. “I remember the comments when I posted our squad before the tournament,” said striker Maxime Comtois. “People were unhappy with the choice, they didn’t give us a chance. But we proved everyone wrong.” Canada sent an inexperienced young team with no big names in the National Hockey League to the tournament – yet they tied record-winner Russia for their 27th World Cup title.
On the desk of the press conference where Moritz Muller was seated a little later with Marcel Neubels, the captain put on his shirt again. There he said, “Not a single dry eye remained in the dressing room. This team deserves it all, teams like this don’t meet often.” Even TV viewers would have felt “how special this group is”. It’s a pity that you didn’t make it “but the memories remain”. “We grew up in a family,” Noebbles said. You can “feel the team spirit of this team,” said Rene Fassel, president of the IIHF. At Korbinian Holzer and Moritz Seider, two Germans were elected to the All-Star Team, Seider, 20, was named the tournament’s best defender.
“He trusts us to do things no one thought we could do before,” says striker Knoebels of coach Söderholm.
The German national team won many hearts at the World Cup in Riga, but they were denied a solid tournament reward in the form of a medal. Defense Secretary Holzer said it would take a little longer “to realize what we’ve achieved here,” before emphasizing: “We wanted more.” These three words best describe the new German ice hockey self-portrait. Striving for more, not being content with respectable successes has come to the minds of players. “We’ve put aside our complexes that we’ve carried with us for years,” Capt. Muller explained. The process began with former national coach Marco Sturm, who led the German national team to the silver medal at the 2018 Olympics, and will now be continued by Toni Soderholm and his assistants. “We have a team of coaches who trust us one hundred percent to play at this level. As a German, you have to understand this feeling in the truest sense of the word,” Muller said.
Finn Soderholm, who took over from Sturm in January 2019, played a key role in that development. “Tony knows how to bring everyone together to bring out the best in the team,” Noebbles said. The Finn embodies faith in the team. “He trusts us to do things no one thought we could do before.” Bonus: You’re getting closer and closer to those national teams, “where six, seven, eight years ago everybody thought we’d get double figures,” Noebbels explained. Soderholm talks about a “cultural change” that began with the Olympic silver medal. In his opinion, this has not yet been completed. It may still take a while to always set the goal “that something can be achieved”. The foundation has been laid.
With all the positive aspects, in the decisive tournament matches, the German team lacked only one thing: efficiency in the end. Whether against the USA or against Finland, I scored only one goal, in the quarter-final against Switzerland, the second goal, which saved the German team in extra time, came just before the end with an additional field player. It is very important in ice hockey today to generate traffic in front of the opposite goal. “This is where the German players can improve,” Soderholm explained. The match in the attacking goal area “This is where we have to improve”. Even the next German tears at the end of a major ice hockey event may be tears of joy.
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