Again and again the ERC Ingolstadt had to get rid of residues in the league, but it is still in sixth place in the table. In the derby against Straubing, he wants to take advantage of the hour.
Sports director Larry Mitchell from ERC Ingolstadt also knows that the opportunity is cheap. This Friday (7:30 p.m.) his club will play against the Straubing Tigers, who recently won only one of six games. “We have to take advantage of that,” Mitchell, 52, said before the game. “When you have a series of defeats, it is sometimes difficult to find the way to victory. We have already experienced that ourselves.” The Ingolstadt team had their slack right at the beginning of the season when they lost two to six. And the derby opponent Straubing, who was just about to take the lead of the German Ice Hockey League (DEL) from EHC Munich a few weeks ago, is still second in the table, but now 13 points behind Munich. Another twelve points behind are the Ingolstadt Panthers in sixth place, who is the last to qualify for the playoff quarter-finals.
The ERC also places itself there roughly every year. Mitchell, who has divided a season into four parts like a year, has so far been satisfied with the first two and a half quarters. “We brought consistency in,” he says – after the bumpy start, mind you. December was the hottest month. Ingolstadt has not scored once in the last nine games: most recently in the 3: 4 against Bremerhaven in the last game of 2019. But that was mainly due to the fact that old patterns reappeared. The ERC was 0: 4 before struggling into the game. That was too much of a good thing even for one of the best offensives in the league, but it also stands a bit for the season. Again and again the Ingolstadt residents have to get rid of residues, which is often still possible. This shows the character of his team, Mitchell thinks. “But this time it mustn’t happen to us. We have to get off to a good start and then do our job.”
In the derby, however, the shot is likely to be right from the first minute. This is also because the team has something to make up for. Winning against no team was more difficult for the Upper Bavarians than against the Tigers. Of the past ten league games, the ERC won only one, 6-4 in March.
Mitchell himself was coach of the Straubing Tigers from 2014 to 2017, before moving to the planning position in Ingolstadt. For a mundane reason: “I love scouting.” In fact, only a few club officials have lured such top players into the DEL for comparatively little money like Mitchell. For example, the German-Canadian brought Michael Connolly, the top submitter of the league from Straubing with 24 assists, first to Augsburg and then to Straubing. Maury Edwards, the league’s best defender, came to the Tigers under Mitchell and now shines at the ERC. Shortly before Christmas, the Ingolstadt-based company extended its contract with Mitchell in the long term.
The sports director is still on good terms with Straubing’s sports director, Jason Dunham, on the phone on a regular basis. “Respect, they are playing a great season. Hats off!” Says Mitchell about the performance of the club from the smallest DEL location, which has played stronger than ever in the almost 14 years of DEL. His successor in Straubing, Tom Pokel, expresses similarly about Ingolstadt. “They are in a good mood, an offensive team. Everything runs through their four strong storm series,” analyzes Pokel, whose team last missed the danger of scoring in the first half of the season. It has not brought more than two goals together in the regular season since Christmas. But that could change in the derby. “Our advantage is that if our defenses are in good shape, we get opportunities through counterattacks.” The Panthers are the only top teams to have conceded more than 100 goals in 33 games. Pokel’s team would not be the first to use the space against Doug Shedden’s team.
The opportunity is actually favorable to create the desired success. Only the sentence before the derby is valid for both clubs.