There is nothing left of amazement or doubt. Ice hockey national coach Toni Söderholm goes his own way in the tricky successor to Olympic silver coach Marco Sturm. And that is – so far – successful.
Confident, structured and with a more offensive game idea, the 41-year-old Finn has led Germany to the most successful start in the World Cup for 89 years. "He has his own philosophy and ideas," said DEB President Franz Reindl the German Press Agency. "We have a fresh wind now and that helps us a lot."
Reindl feels confirmed. In December, together with sporting director Stefan Schaidnagel, he presented the Finnish ex-professional as the successor of the players' revered storm – the most successful national coach in the history of the German Ice Hockey Federation (DEB). This alone has been an immense challenge for Söderholm.
Added to this was the difficult change in the team of the Olympic silver medalists. After the silver medal of Pyeongchang, a number of high achievers had ended their careers. The 2018 World Cup under attack with eleventh place was disappointing. All the more astonishing seemed the decision to make the then 40-year-old Finnish coach of the SC Riessersee – a third division – the coach of the national team, which had been successful only with German coaches in the past 25 years. Söderholm's reputation in the industry was and is excellent. To start, he boldly announced: "Now is my time and I do my things."
GAME SYSTEM: Söderholm inoculated his team with a new understanding of the game. It is focused on significantly more puck ownership, the DEB selection plays more dominant. "We had the complex with Germany for a long time, that we did not dare to do things internationally. We take the next step with him, "said Captain Moritz Müller.
PERSONAL HANDLING: After the storm era, in which the NHL stars always came to the national team, there was doubt whether this would remain so under the Finn. But Söderholm flew together with Schaidnagel to North America in March and met with each one of them. That arrived. "It's a super-guy," judged world-class goalkeeper and Stanley Cup winner Philipp Grubauer and sat down after the playoff with Colorado immediately on the plane to Europe.
ROLLENSPIELER: Söderholm met each player individually before the World Cup and thereby gave him a special role in the game system. "Even how he explains things to us, that's great," said attacker Yasin Ehliz. "He wants us to feel good. He is super-likeable and also a nice guy by nature. »
LAXYNESS: With some ideas in the cabin Söderholm also provided for fun. At the player's seats, for example, there is a children's photo of everyone. "That makes everyone smile when he gets into the cabin at his place. That's good for the laxity, "said striker Marcel Noebels.
COOLNESS: The Finn keeps a cool head on the gang. "He is very objective and calm. Everything he says has a hand in it, "said NHL hotspur Korbinian Holzer. This transfers to the players. When the 3-2 defeat of Slovakia threatened their first defeat at the World Cup two minutes before the end, Markus Eisenschmid and Leon Draisaitl made the game within 85 seconds, making their early quarter-final appearance virtually perfect.
TRAINING CONTROL: The World Cup preparation was tough. Against the USA in the last world championship test (2: 5) the German players had heavy legs. Just in time for the World Cup but the team is always fitter and fresher. The closing phase against the hosts on Wednesday did not happen by chance.