ZAt least the last cheers of the day belonged to the German team. Luca Hauf had fought for the puck while outnumbered, sprinted forward, let a defender slip into the void and threw the disc untenably under the bar. Nice goal, the crowd in Moncton, Canada stood up and applauded politely. But there was no real joy among the juniors of the German Ice Hockey Federation (DEB). It was their only goal of the U-20 World Cup quarter-finals and their opponents United States had already scored in double figures.
Now only incorrigible optimists had flirted with the semi-finals. But how chanceless the Germans were in their 1:11 defeat was sobering. It was not a group of amateurs that flew across the Atlantic here, but a selection of young professionals, many of them trained in academies and already active in the DEL. It was not for nothing that national coach Tobias Abstreiter spoke afterwards of a “bitter end”, his team was eliminated “without a chance and almost without resistance”.
“The positive outweighs”
But Abstreiter wasn’t entirely unhappy either. “The positive outweighs that,” said the national coach, whose team reached the quarter-finals of a U-20 World Championship for the third time in a row and thus established itself among the top eight in junior ice hockey. There is no longer any comparison to the gloomy times when the Germans, as an elevator team, switched between the A and B World Championships. In this respect, one can “be satisfied with the performance,” said DEB sports director Christian Künast. But he didn’t want to sugarcoat anything either: “We’re still missing a lot for a surprise or even a sensation.”
The distance to the top nations has even increased again. Observers of local youth ice hockey had long warned that exceptional talents like Moritz Seider or Tim Stützle, who had worn the U national teams in previous years, would have blocked their view of reality. The current World Cup could at least not invalidate that. There were certainly good moments: The final phase against Sweden (0:1) when the Germans pushed for an equaliser. The first two thirds in the win against Austria (4:2) – until the DEB selection was only in the back and the victory trembled over time. The performances against Canada (2:11) and the Czech Republic (1:8) were very bleak, because it was a class difference. Now also against the United States.
So the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle: German ice hockey is by no means on the right track as it has sometimes seemed in recent years. But just because the U-20 World Cup sometimes gets double digits against top nations doesn’t mean it’s as bad as you might think.