Ice hockey team flies to Beijing with ten silver heroes

Ten silver medalists from 2018 and 19 World Cup semi-finalists from 2021 should write a new ice hockey fairy tale at the Winter Games in Beijing.

When the Olympic squad was announced, national coach Toni Söderholm and sports director Christian Künast wanted nothing to do with corona worries and repeated the high ambitions of the Olympic silver medalist from Pyeongchang. “We want success. The guys are ready for the next step to achieve something big,” said Söderholm. “The hope and the goal is certainly that we finish in the top four and fight for medals,” said the 43-year-old Finn. “But there is still a long way to go.”

The umpteenth current corona outbreak in the German Ice Hockey League, with the top team Adler Mannheim of all places, made it clear how far. In goalkeeper Felix Brückmann, defender Korbinian Holzer and attackers Lean Bergmann, Nicolas Krämmer, Matthias Plachta and David Wolf, the Eagles have six and thus the most Olympic riders in the German squad. The Adler made 14 positive cases public, including players who are in the 25-strong Olympic squad, according to information from “Mannheimer Morgen”.

Two surprising returnees

“We will not comment on any names,” said DEB sports director Künast, but admitted: “It may well be that only 22 will fly to China and three will follow.” On February 2nd, Söderholm wants to fly to Beijing and prepare his team for the special conditions in China and the Corona challenges in Mannheim, of all places, from next Monday. The national players in the DEL still have to play until the weekend – if their teams’ games take place at all.

The players’ association SVE therefore called for a game stop in the DEL on Tuesday, mainly out of consideration for the interests of the Olympic drivers, which they immediately rejected. A game stop is “logistically and legally not possible,” said DEL managing director Gernot Tripcke. Although Künast found that stopping the game would be useful for the DEB, the 50-year-old ex-national goalkeeper is not worried that the ice hockey team could fare like the German handball players, who were hit by a total of 15 corona cases, last at the European Championship. “Of course I followed that and I’m very sorry for the handball players,” said Künast. “But we as DEB are very well positioned and well prepared.”

In the squad, Söderholm relies on routine and two surprising returnees, unless he is forced to make additional nominations. Despite his poor season so far at EHC Red Bull Munich, Danny aus den Birken, silver goalkeeper from 2018, is back in Beijing. Meanwhile, the 36-year-old should only be number three this time after Mathias Niederberger from champion Eisbären Berlin and Brückmann from the Adler. “All three have a lot of international experience and have already won titles,” Söderholm explained and referred to a different tactical system in the national team compared to the Munich team, which would benefit the goalkeepers.

A lot of NHL experience in the German team

Not many expected the 35-year-old striker Daniel Pietta from ERC Ingolstadt to take part in the Olympics for the first time. “Daniel can win face-offs and is a very good underman player. Both are very important for us,” said Söderholm.

Two-time Stanley Cup winners Tom Kühnhackl (Skelleftea/SWE), Tobias Rieder (Växjö/SWE), Dominik Kahun (SC Bern) and Mannheims Holzer also have experience from a total of 1181 NHL games.

The Olympic squad of the German Ice Hockey Federation (DEB):

Goalkeeper: Danny aus den Birken (Red Bull Munich), Felix Brückmann (Adler Mannheim), Mathias Niederberger (Eisbären Berlin)

Defender: Konrad Abeltshauser (Red Bull Munich), Dominik Bittner (Grizzlys Wolfsburg), Marcel Brandt (Straubing Tigers), Korbinian Holzer (Adler Mannheim), Jonas Müller (Eisbären Berlin), Moritz Müller (Kölner Haie), Marco Nowak (Düsseldorfer EG), Fabio Wagner (ERC Ingolstadt)

Striker: Lean Bergmann, Nicolas Krämmer, Matthias Plachta, David Wolf (all Adler Mannheim), Yasin Ehliz, Patrik Hager, Frederik Tiffels (all Red Bull Munich), Dominik Kahun (SC Bern), Tom Kühnhackl, Stefan Loibl (both Skelleftea AIK), Marcel Noebels, Leonhard Pföderl (both Eisbären Berlin), Daniel Pietta (ERC Ingolstadt), Tobias Rieder (Växjö Lakers).


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