International Ice Hockey Federation

Germany eases to win

Host eyes QF, Italy close to relegation

Published 13.05.2017 22:46 GMT+2 | Author Andy Potts
Germany eases to win
COLOGNE, GERMANY - MAY 13: Germany's Christian Ehrhoff #10 with a scoring chance against Italy's Andreas Bernard #1 while Matthias Plachta #22 and Alexander Egger #17 look on during preliminary round action at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Leon Draisaitl settled into the 2017 World Championship with an assist to help Germany beat Italy on his first appearance in the competition in Cologne.

Germany moves on to a likely final day showdown against Latvia after a comfortable victory over Italy put the host nation right back in the race for a quarter-final spot.

Marco Sturm’s team was lifted by the addition of three players. Patrick Hager returned after a two-game suspension, Philipp Grubauer dressed as the second goalie as Thomas Greiss struggles with injury and, most important of all, Leon Draisaitl made his first start of the competition after flying in from Edmonton during the week.

Draisaitl, a Cologne native, is rated as perhaps the finest talent his country has produced. Here, he quickly established an understanding with Christian Ehrhoff that saw the German captain transformed into a marauding blue-linerduring the first period.

In the opening exchanges he took a Draisaitl pass and wove his way through the defence before Andreas Bernard stopped him. Moments later he exchanged passes with Germany's new recruit before firing home the opening goal from inside the left circle.

Draisaitl, who was later voter Germany's best player of the game, said afterwards: "I felt OK. I'm not at 100%, but there are no excuses. I wanted to come here and help the team and I thought this was a decent start for me.

"It's a different type of hockey here so it can take a while to get adjusted, but I know I'll get better from game to game."

Even after Italy tied the game – within a minute, as Simon Kostner’s pass sent Michele Marchetti off to the races and the forward shot through Danny aus den Birken – the Ehrhoff-Draisaitl combination continued to generate pressure with Ehrhoff going close again midway through the session. The squadra azzurra managed just two first-period shots as Germany dominated, and the only surprise was that it took until the 19th minute for the host nation to move in front once again.

That goal came on the power play – Italian indiscipline hurting the team yet again – and saw Matthias Plachta fire home the rebound from Dennis Seidenberg’s slap shot.

Early in the middle stanza, Germany killed the game off with two quick goals, both involving Yannic Seidenberg. First he was the beneficiary of a Frank Hordler rush that left two D-men floundering; the feed set up Seidenberg to smash home a shot from the left circle. Then he turned provider, steering the rebound from Dominik Kahun’s shot back for his team-mate to score at the second attempt.

For Italian D-man Thomas Larkin it was another of those frustrating lapses that have hurt his team so badly in this competition.

"I thought we had a lull in the second period that cost us," he said. "We are a little banged up right now. We are missing three of our really good forwards and a defenseman. Still, we are proud of our efforts ands played all the way to the end and never let go."

Italy saw a chance to get back into contention during when Dennis Seidenberg took a double-minor midway through the game. But apart from Marco Insam rattling the piping with a 140kph effort, the men in blue did little to trouble aus den Birken.

The third period played out in front of a jubilant home crowd of 18,712 - whose noise was appreciated by Draisaitl - but produced no further scoring.

Germany’s win moves it to nine points, level with Latvia as the teams straddle fourth and fifth place. Tuesday’s head-to-head clash between the two looks set to determine the final qualifier for the knock-out phase.

"The next game is the most important for us," Draisaitl added. "I will be a tight game, it will be a battle, but we will make sure we are ready to go."

Italy, meanwhile, with just one point from six games, is close to relegation back to Division I and needs a regulation-time win against Denmark on Monday to keep hopes alive.