Carter Rowney has experienced a lot as an ice hockey player. He waited a long time for his chance in the North American professional league NHL, then took advantage of it, became champion in the best league in the world and at some point was sorted out. The 34-year-old, as was already evident in his first season in the Lions Frankfurt jersey, understands the game like no one else in the German Ice Hockey League – and he knows the business. It’s all the more surprising when someone like him is sometimes stumped. Why was the front row so much more effective in the derby against Adler Mannheim on Wednesday than in previous games? Well, if only he knew.
It was the only question Rowney didn’t have an answer to that evening. This spectacular 4:5 was not that easy to classify. On the one hand, the team can be proud of the morale and the comeback that was almost successful, said Rowney. Even after the 1:5, the Lions didn’t give up, fought their way back into the game against an opponent with significantly higher quality and dominated in the final third, having chance after chance.
On the other hand, the game gave reason to be angry about conceding two goals when they had the advantage and the first ten minutes in which Frankfurt was repeatedly forced to make mistakes due to Mannheim’s forechecking and quickly fell 3-0 behind. “We were in Derby condition too late. That’s not possible, that’s bad. We addressed that, but it also came from the team itself. We know what to do,” said co-coach Jan Barta.
Rowney wants to help the team
And finally there was Rowney himself, who could be dissatisfied because he didn’t use any of his five very good opportunities. And happy because he had prepared three goals. The third-best point collector in the league last season (21 goals, 37 assists) had no scorer of his own in the first four games and has not yet scored a goal after five games.
Against Mannheim, the front row was now much more dangerous to score. That also had to do with Rowney, but not only. For the game against the Adler, head coach Matti Tiilikainen decided to let the young Markus Schweiger play in the fourth line. Instead, as in the final third against Straubing, Eugen Alanov stormed alongside Rowney and Bokk. The 27-year-old (30 goals in 238 DEL games) not only shone as a hard worker, but also as a goalscorer to make it 4:5. There was praise from Rowney afterwards: “Eugen played really well today.”
It is difficult to judge whether it was ultimately the change alone that gave the parade series more of a goal-scoring threat again. Sports director Franz-David Fritzmeier had asked for patience before the game because Rowney and Bokk also had to get used to the fact that after the fantastic last season, “the opponents are now always on their feet”. Maybe sometimes there was just a lack of luck. At least in the opening game the front row had good chances. And who knows what the subsequent games would have been like if the knot had broken early.
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Either way, one thing is certain: “My line played its best game so far today,” said Bokk. Tiilikainen probably sees it that way too. There is a lot to suggest that he will continue to rely on Bokk, Rowney and Alanov for the time being – also because he does not want to tear apart the line of Cameron Brace, Cody Kunyk and Joseph Cramarossa, which worked well at the start of the season and which remained pale against Mannheim.
When asked when he would be allowed to celebrate a goal again, Rowney replied with all his routine on Wednesday: “You can’t focus on it too much if you want to help the team. I try to stay calm and relaxed,” he explained: “The chances are there, my teammates put me in the spotlight. I think it’s just a matter of time.” The game against the champions from Munich on Sunday (4 p.m. live on Magentasport) would be an ideal time. Perhaps the most important message that Rowney sent that evening had nothing to do with him: “You can’t give Mannheim these chances at the beginning. “They have a good team,” he said, adding: “But so do we if we play consistently for over 60 minutes.”