Team Germany got back on track in the Men’s Olympic Hockey tournament, narrowly defeating Team China 3-2. Germany got off to an excellent start, jumping out to a 2-0 lead by the end of the first period thanks to defensemen Marcel Brandt and Korbinian Holzer. Toni Söderholm’s club added to their lead in the second with a goal from Dominik Kahun before the team shifted gears and shut things down. China got on the scoreboard twice, making things a little too close for comfort for Germany, but they were unable to find the equalizer.
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With the win, Germany advances into the third spot of Group A, behind Team USA and Team Canada. While they have the same amount of points as Canada, Canada’s goal differential is slightly better with a plus-2 compared to Germany’s minus-3. The Germans will conclude group play against Team USA on Feb 13. The Americans have had a strong showing thus far, crushing China 8-0 in their Olympic opener and following it up with a 4-2 win over Canada. It won’t be easy taking on a team with two of the tournament’s top three scorers, but Germany has never backed down from a challenge.
Before getting ahead of ourselves, let’s focus on the positives and take a look at some of the things Germany can be happy about with their most recent win. Here are three takeaways from their game against China.
German Defense Contributing
If the Germans want to replicate their 2018 magic, they’ll need to get some offensive production from the backend. During the elimination stages of the last tournament, Germany’s blueliners contributed on the scoresheet in all but one game, the 4-3 thrilling win over Canada. Jonas Muller, a fresh-faced, 22-year-old Olympic rookie, scored one of the biggest goals of his professional career in the gold-medal game, a game they’d eventually lose to the superior Team ROC squad. That’s the kind of magic they need to re-capture. Although they couldn’t do much against Canada, Germany’s defense chipped in to edge out China.
Brandt, who is appearing in his first Olympic Games, opened up the scoring with a spectacular, unassisted goal. The tally came shortly after the Chinese had killed off a penalty. Brandt engaged in a battle along the boards in the German defensive zone and managed to come out with the puck. Going end-to-end, Brandt fired a loose wrist shot at goaltender Shimisi Jieruimi before picking up his rebound and tucking the puck just underneath his right pad. Holzer’s wrist shot beat Jieruimi clean, following a sneaky screen set up by Stefan Loibl. Holzer’s tally was his first goal at the Olympic level, having gone without a goal in the 2018 tournament.
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It was the kind of effort Germany needed against Canada and one they’ll sorely need when they face the Americans. After two defensemen got on the board, it’s the wake-up call they needed and one they’ll hope to take advantage of as the tournament progresses.
Penalty Troubles Are Concerning
The Germans have always been tough to play against while remaining disciplined. A strict way of being taught, no question about it, but one that they have adapted to perfectly, making them a pain in the neck to play against. Against Canada, they took just two minor penalties. They gave up one powerplay goal, but over a 60-minute performance, they remained disciplined enough to stay out of the box. Against China, however, they took five minor penalties and surrendered a powerplay goal late in the game, giving their opposition hope for a comeback.
In a game that saw China’s first-ever goal in men’s Olympic hockey, scored by Parker Foo, they also got on the board with their first-ever power play goal. Taile Wang gave China a glimmer of hope when he scored 34 seconds into the team’s fifth power play of the game. It was also Yasin Ehliz’s second trip to the penalty box, something coach Söderholm will have to iron out if he wants his team to be in top form when they take on the Americans. Another performance like this could spell disaster for Germany, especially with how potent of an offense Team USA possesses.
In 2018, Germany faced similar penalty troubles. They took five minor penalties in their opening game and took no less than three in their second and third group matches. They ended up squeaking out and surprising the world with overtime wins against Switzerland and Sweden before shocking Canada and finishing with a silver medal against Team ROC. They’ve overcome this situation once, but if they hope to keep things close against the Americans, they’ll need to stay out of the box as much as possible.
Too Close For Comfort
China’s late pushback was a marvel to watch as a hockey fan, but for German hockey fans, it was both frustrating and shocking. The Germans got off to a 3-0 lead and while their defensive efforts proved to be enough against China, the two goals they surrendered were enough to question the detail they put in and the style they played against an inferior team playing in their first Olympic tournament.
We allowed [China] to come back into the game, had penalties, didn’t play the puck well. We allowed them to get back to life and get energy. We shot ourselves in the foot.Korbinian Holzer, German defenseman
German captain Moritz Muller added that he felt the team tried to do too much and were “too cute” with their offensive rushes, something they’ll need to hammer out for the next game. While they kept China at bay, for the most part, China still registered a handful of high-quality, high-danger area shots, beating Matthias Niederberger on two of them. It caused some area of concern regarding Germany’s defensive structure, which has been their bread and butter for what has seemed like an eternity. While the score kept the game interesting, there is much to correct ahead of their next game, and coach Söderholm will have his work cut out for him.
Up next, Germany will take on Team USA on Feb. 13, finishing up the group stage portion of the tournament. The Americans are the top-rated team in both Group A, leading in goals for (12) and goals against (2). It will be the toughest match for a German squad that has already dropped a 5-1 decision to Canada, making this game important for both the result in the standings as well as their morale.