It wasn’t the start they were hoping for against Canada, as Team Germany surrendered the game’s first three goals in the opening period, dropping their first game of the tournament 5-1. Germany, the defending silver medal team, hoped to repeat their 2018 success against the bronze medal winners, but a newly-structured Canadian troop proved too much for Germany. Ben Street scored early, which would be the eventual game-winning goal, and added an assist, and Eric O’Dell added two assists in a convincing and dominating win. Tobias Rieder was the only German to score.
Despite the score and a slight advantage in shots for Canada, the game itself was closer than it may have seemed. Head coach Toni Söderholm certainly has his work cut out for him, but there are a few outliers that can give him hope for the rest of group play. His team will still need to be at the top of their game and hope for a better result when they take on Team USA and Team China. If 2018 has told hockey fans anything, it’s that no game is a given and to expect the unexpected.
Team China, coming off their 8-0 loss to Team USA, is Germany’s next opponent; they will play on Saturday. Before then, it’s time to take a look at three takeaways from the Germans’ defeat against Canada.
A Tough 32 Seconds
That’s the time it took for Germany to find themselves behind the eight ball in this contest. Already down 1-0 just five minutes into the game, Street made it 2-0 by the mid-way point of the first period. While not heart-breaking, nor something the German teams can’t dig themselves out of, it was Daniel Winnik’s goal 32 seconds later that took the wind out of Germany’s sails. Heading into intermission down 3-0, it was a steep hill to climb, and one Söderholm’s club couldn’t find the strength to accomplish.
They managed to keep the shots close in the opening frame but fell behind in the second period. The third was a dominant one for Canada but by then, Germany had a three-goal deficit to erase against Edward Pasquale’s strong showing. The Canadian goaltender played well enough for his team to feel confident and push the play forward, knowing they could get a big save out of him when they needed it.
Mathias Niederberger Struggles in Olympic Debut
Everyone always remembers their first but for Mathias Niederberger, it’s one he’d probably like to forget entirely. The 29-year-old goaltender has been outstanding with the Eisbären Berlin of the DEL, posting a 20-9-0 record this season and playing an important role in his team’s domination of the German league. He also happens to be one of two German goaltenders making their Olympic debut, with 30-year-old Felix Brückmann being the other. It was a chance to see what Niederberger could do, and unfortunately, he fell short in his efforts to aid a German team to a second consecutive victory over Canada in as many Olympic games.
Niederberger faced 27 shots in his opening game and appeared strong at various points throughout, but he was also shaky when the team relied on him to make important saves. In particular, he wasn’t sharp on Canada’s third goal, which came 32 seconds after they made it a 2-0 game. He surrendered another goal in the second period after his team got one back and one more in the third. The final frame was his strongest, as Canada poured it on in the final frame and took the game over. If there’s one thing Söderholm can be happy about, it’s Niederberger’s unwillingness to give up, even when the game was out of reach.
It Doesn’t Matter, It’s In The Past
In a short tournament, one loss can spell disaster but it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the run. For Germany, that’s the mentality they’ll need to have as they head into Saturday’s game against Team China. It now becomes a matter of must-win for their next two games, and against China, it would be a blow to both their tournament and their ego to lose to the tournament’s bottom-ranked team.
“One defeat doesn’t end our tournament. It’s just the first game and there’s a lot more games to play.”Tobias Rieder, Team Germany
A convincing win against China could calm any doubt instilled in Germany, but it won’t be enough to erase it. In the trenches is the closing game against Team USA on Feb 13, meaning Germany will have to win back-to-back games to close out the group stage and hope it’s enough to make it out. Team USA looked convincing in their 8-0 destruction over China, so it’s not a given that Germany will have a better result against them compared to Canada. If there’s one thing they can improve on, it’s getting more out of their top-six scoring and they could gain confidence against an inferior opponent like China.
They may also need to do so without German defender Marco Nowak, who left the opening game against Canada after he was hit behind the net by Canada’s O’Dell. Nowak looked shaky getting up and couldn’t establish himself in the play in time, leading up to Canada’s first goal. As the team celebrated, it was clear he wasn’t looking good, and he left to the dressing room. He did not return and it’s unclear whether he’ll be good to go against China. If he isn’t ready to go, Dominik Bittner could dress in his place. He was the only defenseman on Germany’s roster to not play in the opening game.
Covering the Nashville Predators. I work for a company called SPORTLOGiQ and have loved the game of Hockey for over three decades. I’m obsessed with advanced analytics and pair that with my love for the eye test – i.e. watching the games (I DO that too!)