International Ice Hockey Federation

Made in Cologne

Home-town heroes snatch German win

Published 05.05.2017 23:08 GMT+2 | Author Andy Potts
Made in Cologne
COLOGNE, GERMANY - MAY 5: Germany's Tobias Rieder #8 celebrates after scoring a first period goal against USA's Jimmy Howard #35 during preliminary round action at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Philip Gogulla and Patrick Hager, two players from Cologne's DEL team, thrilled the home crowd with the game-winning play as Germany downed the USA 2-1.

Few things wake up a tournament like a strong start for the host nation, and Germany delivered exactly that in Cologne. Marco Sturm’s roster has genuine hopes of progressing to the knock-out phase here and it burnished those credentials with an opening-day victory over the USA.

To make things even better for a sell-out 18,600 crowd in Cologne, the winning goal was made right here on the banks of the Rhine. On a power play, Kolner Haie's Philip Gogulla played the puck out to the point, Yannic Seidenberg fired in a shot and Patrick Hager - another Kolner Haie man - got the vital downward deflection to deceive Jimmy Howard and reinstate Germany's lead with six minutes to play.

Hometown hero Hager was keen to share the glory after a resilient performance through all four lines. "This is a team effort tonight," he said. "We had good energy coming into the game and we had to channel that in the right way. We worked hard, and we worked as a team."

It would be hard not to feel some sympathy for the USA, though. After falling behind early in the game, Jeff Blaishill's team dominated proceedings to the extent that Hager's goal was only the fourth shot Germany mustered in the final stanza of a game which, at times, threatened to turn into a personal shoot-out between Johnny Gaudreau and home goaltender Thomas Greiss. Greiss finished with 42 saves to help his nation to victory; 22 of them were to deny Gaudreau and his line-mates Jack Eichel and Anders Lee.

That typified Germany's backs-to-the-wall approach to the game, as forward Brooks Macek noted afterwards. "It was the first game of the tournament, the crowd was crazy and that definitely helped," he said. "I think you could see that in our game, we had a lot of energy, we were skating, blocking shots, we were doing the right things and in the end it worked out."

The Americans enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges, with Gaudreau going one-on-one in the third minute only to be thwarted by Greiss. But Germany came into the game and took the lead in the 11th minute through Tobias Rieder. The Arizona Coyotes man showed great composure in front of the net, collecting the rebound after his close-range effort was blocked, spotting a gap between Jimmy Howard’s pad and his far post, and holding the puck until the angle opened up for a backhand finish that went beyond the goalie’s reach. Chants of ‘Deutschland, Deutschland!’ rolled around the capacity crowd in Cologne’s Lanxess Arena.

Gaudreau remained the stand-out player. After his early chance, the youngster produced a beautiful piece of skill to spin away from the sprawling Konrad Abeltshauser only to find Greiss slamming the door shut in his face once again. Gaudreau first came to prominence playing in the 2014 Worlds, and looks to be in the mood for another big showing on the international stage.

The middle stanza was dominated by the Americans, but the tying goal would not come. Gaudreau again went close, sparking a huge scramble on the German crease during the first USA power play of the tournament. Anders Lee couldn’t quite make contact with the loose puck as it slewed crazily across the paintwork and – eventually – Greiss got on top of the situation. Another big moment fell to Andrew Copp when he got a clear look at Greiss’s net late in the session. Invited inside by Justin Krueger, Copp’s shot clipped the outside of the post and went wide.

Lee paid tribute to his New York Islanders clubmate after the game. "You have to give Germany credit," he said. "I knew it was going to be a tough game, it always is when Greiss is in the net. I've seen what he can do all season and tonight he played an extremely good game."

Not surprisingly the USA continued to press early in the third. Seven minutes into the final frame, Greiss had turned away a further 10 shots while Germany had managed just one attempt at the other end. The big chances came and went: Charlie McAvoy found Griess’s pads when well-placed, Clayton Keller went short-side and found the side netting, Christian Dvorak fanned on a shot with a clear look at goal. Germany was reeling, willing the clock to tick down faster.

Instead, team captain Connor Murphy finally tied the game for the USA. His wrist shot from the top of the right-hand circle beat Greiss with nine minutes left to play, the goalie's view perhaps obscured by his own defence. Twenty seconds later, Lee was convinced he’d got the better of his fellow Islander and put the Americans in front but the effort was ruled out as the puck was hooked from the goal line by a German defenceman. It felt like a temporary reprieve - but instead of a US winner, the Cologne connection struck to kickstart a new carnival beside the Rhine.