AWhen it was all over, JJ Peterka couldn’t hold back his emotions. With glassy eyes and a trembling lower lip, the 21-year-old stood on the ice and watched as the Canadians hugged and hugged each other. He was no longer comforted by the fact that shortly afterwards he was named the best striker at the 86th Ice Hockey World Championship. Because he would have exchanged this individual title immediately for the big trophy, which the Canadians were allowed to stretch towards the roof of the hall a few minutes later.
With 2:5 (1:1, 1:1, 0:3) the selection of the German Ice Hockey Federation (DEB) lost the World Cup final against Canada, which is now the sole record world champion. For the 28th time, the motherland of the sport celebrated on Sunday evening in Tampere, Finland. For the Germans it would have been the first title ever. The really big hit didn’t materialize, but the DEB is still looking at one of its greatest successes in its existence: after all, its first World Cup medal in 70 years.
“High level of Germany”
This is rated similarly high as the Olympic silver medal from 2018. At the time, it was still considered a historical outlier, but now it looks more like a starting signal. “Since 2018 everyone has been used to seeing this high level from the Germans,” said world association president Luc Tardif these days. Because the DEB team had also made it to the World Cup semi-finals in 2021, now in Tampere it went one step further.
Hardly anyone had expected this beforehand. Neither did Nico Sturm, who hadn’t even packed enough for such a long World Cup trip, he recently said in Finland: “I’ve been wearing the same pair of socks for four days.” Harold Kreis also used old clothes for the final, but not superstition. He’s wearing his lucky shirt against Canada for the seventh time, and it’s “not ironed, I’m wearing it like I took it off yesterday”.
Still, it wasn’t enough. Although the German team even took the lead in the eighth minute. Moritz Seider staged a sharp pass for Peterka, who took a few steps and shot the puck into the far corner. The Germans then tried the long passes more often, but the next goal belonged to the Canadians, Samuel Blais equalized in the twelfth minute. After that it got rougher, NHL roughneck Milan Lucic checked Wojciech Stachowiak to the ground, later Seider sent Jacob Middleton roughly onto the ice. Which was well received by the audience.
As is so often the case in decisive games, it was not an open exchange of blows with many goal scenes. Not even in the second third. Nevertheless, Mathias Niederberger twice had to use all his skills to avoid falling behind. His opponent Samuel Montembeault looked much more shaky, in the 34th minute he let Daniel Fischbuch’s shot slip through to make it 2-1, but Lawson Crouse equalized with a majority before the second siren – which the Germans immediately complained to the referees because Kai Wissmann had previously been fouled.
So the last third ended with a draw, in which the Canadians started much more offensively and established themselves at the front several times. Also, because the Germans now allowed themselves unnecessary puck losses, such as that of Maksymilian Szuber in the 45th minute, Blais pushed in to make it 3:2. This was by no means the first setback for the DEB team in this tournament, which had started with three defeats. The Germans also caught up in the semifinals against the Americans on Saturday. But against the rarely exciting but almost flawless Canadians it wasn’t enough for a comeback. There was just no getting through.
The decision came eight minutes before the end. Up front Marcel Noebels didn’t hit the puck properly, in return Tyler Toffoli shot through Niederberger’s legs to make it 4:2. In the end, Scott Laughton scored into the empty goal to make it 5:2. Shortly afterwards it was over. Canada celebrated, Peterka cried. “Of course I’m very, very proud of the team,” said national coach Harold Kreis at Sport 1: “I can say the tank is empty, everyone gave their all. It’s only silver in the lead, but we won something and lost nothing.”
“The pain is deep, there was just more in it, it would have been so good,” said goalkeeper Mathias Niederberger: “We played an amazing tournament and can be proud of ourselves, even if it’s very, very tough now.” The team have “shown how good German players are, meanwhile on par with all other nations. And there are a lot of young people, there’s more to come.”