nhljerseys.net takes a look at what’s happening outside of North America every Sunday in its “International Ice” series and reports on topics or players from the European leagues.
In this issue: The World Cup preparations of the German national team
This week, the German national team completed the first of four preparatory phases for the IIHF World Championship 2022 in Finland in May. In Chomutov, five training sessions and two friendlies against hosts Czech Republic were scheduled for the DEB selection. In the first comparison on Thursday, the protégés of national coach Toni Söderholm lost 2:6. The next day things went much better. The team, led by Dominik Kahun as captain, had the upper hand 2-0. It was the first win against the Czechs in four years.
However, the value of the two comparisons is limited. Important players who are still playing for their clubs nationally or internationally were missing on both sides. According to coach Söderholm, the focus in training was on playing without a puck and behaving in your own zone. DEB sports director Christian Künast was satisfied with the performance of the young team. “We had a very good phase one, with a lot of learnings. It’s fun to see how much you get back from the players when you give them trust and responsibility, no matter what role they play at your club,” he said.
Some key personnel decisions were made before leaving for the Czech Republic. They concerned the coaching team that will support national coach Söderholm at the World Cup. He appointed Petteri Väkiparta, head coach of the Lausitzer Füchse, and Raimo Helminen, former captain of the Finnish national team, as assistant coaches. Goalie coach is Ilpo Kauhanan, who was already at the 2021 World Cup, and Erik Elenz from the University of Vermont ice hockey team acts as video coach.
“It is important to me that we have international experience in the coaching staff,” said Söderholm, explaining his choice. “Raimo Helminen brings a lot with him. Petteri Väkiparta knows German ice hockey very well and has already worked for us at DEB. Erik Elenz is a young up-and-coming video coach. This position is incredibly important at the World Cup tournaments and in Erik we have a very motivated reinforcements. He has already worked with a number of professional trainers in recent years.”
In the coming week, the DEB selection will continue their preparation with phase two in Rosenheim. The highlights are the duels against Switzerland on April 21st and 23rd in the ROFA Stadium, the home ground of the former German champions and current Oberliga side Starbulls Rosenheim.
In the third preparatory phase, the DEB entourage will move from Bavaria to Saxony. The JOYNEXT Arena in Dresden hosts the team for five days and two encounters with Olympic bronze medalist Slovakia on April 29th and 30th.
The World Cup dress rehearsal finally rises during phase four on May 8th in Schwenningen. In the Helios Arena, Germany crosses rackets with Austria, the promoted team from Division I.
“We have found three very good locations for our preparations. We are looking forward to being guests in Rosenheim, Dresden and Schwenningen. These will be atmospheric international matches with a very clear focus on the World Cup,” says sports director Künast.
In the next few weeks, players will be successively added to the squad once they have finished the season with their teams. This also includes overseas players who play an important role in the planning of Söderholm. From the NHL, for example, goalkeeper Philipp Grubauer from the Seattle Kraken, defender Moritz Seider from the Detroit Red Wings and forward Tim Stützle could join the DEB selection. They are not represented with their clubs in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The same applies to the two attackers Lukas Reichel from the Chicago Blackhawks and JJ Peterka from the Buffalo Sabers. However, they were used for large stretches of the season with the AHL farm teams in Rockford and Rochester, who in turn have legitimate hopes of participating in the playoffs for the Calder Cup and may not want to do without the services of the two Germans. The situation is similar for defensive player Leon Gawanke of the Manitoba Moose and forward Marc Michaelis of the Toronto Marlies.
The national coach makes no secret of the fact that he would like to have the young NHL cracks in Finland and that they would also like to play. “The players are positive about participating in the World Cup,” Söderholm summarized the talks with those affected over the past few weeks and months. However, the whole thing depends on another factor, namely the approval by the clubs. It could well be that those responsible would rather see the young players take a break than the World Cup to play. “These are negotiations that you have to have with everyone individually. But I’m confident that some of them will be there and of course I hope so because it’s good for everyone,” added the national coach.
Whether Leon Draisaitl from the Edmonton Oilers or Nico Sturm from the Colorado Avalanche will wear the jersey with the federal eagle at the World Cup is extremely questionable. Both teams have set themselves a long playoff run this year, which would be contrary to a use of the two centers in Finland.