Even the prospect of a German World Cup record and the perfect starting position for the quarterfinals could not alleviate Toni Söderholm’s anger about Tim Stützle’s World Cup exit. Without his exceptional striker, the German Ice Hockey Federation team, supported by Söderholm, struggled to a 5:4 (3:2, 1:1, 1:1) in the penultimate group game against Kazakhstan in Helsinki on Sunday.
Germany thus matched its best World Cup preliminary round performance of 2019 with five wins from six games. On Tuesday at the end against arch-rival Switzerland (11.20 a.m. / Sport1 and MagentaSport) even more is possible: the preliminary round record and, ideally, even the group win. Then the World Cup fourth in 2021 would have the best starting position for the knockout round, in which it should work from Thursday with the first World Cup medal in 69 years.
Goals by Jonas Müller (5th minute), Leo Pföderl (17th), Daniel Fischbuch (19th), Lukas Reichel (26th) and Yasin Ehliz (48th) ensured Germany’s fifth World Cup victory in a row in NHL goalie Philipp Grubauer, defender Korbinian Holzer and attacker Matthias Plachta spared top performers.
But Stützle’s final World Cup failure, which the DEB had announced shortly before, weighed heavily on Söderholm’s mind. “We certainly would have needed Tim’s qualities,” said Söderholm with regard to the tasks in the coming days. The decision to take the 20-year-old attacker out of the tournament from the Ottawa Senators clearly annoyed Söderholm.
“I’m not commenting on that. I’m not a doctor. That’s why I can’t say whether the injury is serious or not,” the 44-year-old began smugly and then repeated his assessment, which he had repeatedly made known since Stützle’s slight knee injury in the 3-2 win against France on Monday: “I I’m optimistic that he can play.”
But apparently not the senators. Because probably the team from the mighty NHL alone decided on his jewel. Söderholm also hinted at this: “The decision is not in my hands.” According to unconfirmed media reports, Stützle suffered a bruised knee against the French – so no big deal.
DEB sports director Christian Künast had officially made a Solomonic statement on Sunday morning. “Tim was lucky in his misfortune. He suffered a knee injury that will heal quickly and completely,” said Künast. “Tim would not be spared by the opponent in the upcoming games and his health is the top priority.”
The process also has a flavor that Dom Nicoletta, the Senators’ athletics therapist in Finland, works for the Canadian team. Apparently Nicoletta Stützle had examined thoroughly in the past few days. And the record world champion is now competing with Germany for group victory.
The absence of the exceptional striker is all the more serious due to the injury-related World Cup exit of ex-NHL striker Dominik Kahun shortly before the tournament and the absence of world-class striker Leon Draisaitl because of his playoff appearance with the Edmonton Oilers.
Others are now in demand. Lukas Reichel from the second-rate North American professional league AHL should be more in focus. The powerful Reichel scored the 4:2 against the Kazakhs in the second third with a majority. Like AHL defender Leon Gawanke, he traveled after the end of the season and played against Italy (9:4) for the first time on Friday.
Even after the narrow victory on Sunday, Söderholm remained tense – despite the long-established quarterfinal entry. “It’s a sign that the players have done a lot right,” said Söderhom, but called for a clear increase in performance: “There are many things that we still have to develop in the game, especially toughness and speed when it comes to the crucial games.”