BERNE – "All for one, one for all" worked for the musketeers, and it worked for Dave Henderson’s team in the 2009 World Championship. Disciplined and sacrificing play carried France to a 2-1 win over Germany.
"We were determined to win. We knew they're better than us but we played a great game defensively, and they weren't able to score. We knew it was going to be tough, but if we don't believe in ourselves, then nobody does," said French captain Laurent Meunier.
Both teams had lost their first two games in the tournament to Russia and Switzerland even if Germany managed to grab a point in the Switzerland game, losing it in overtime. That point had no bearing tonight, in a game of winner takes all, the “all” being a spot in the qualification round group.
Even though Germany will now play in the Relegation Round, the team cannot be relegated for 2010, due to a special provision in the IIHF regulations that says that a team hosting the World Championship cannot be relegated. Germany will be the host of the 2010 IIHF World Championship.
So, if Germany finishes third or fourth in the Relegation Round, the team that finished second will go down to Division I in 2010.
But it won't be France.
"For this team this was a huge win. I don't know if it will mean anything for hockey in France, but for this team, it was very important. We've been working hard for the last few years, we know each other, we have a good chemistry on the team," said Meunier.
For Germany, the game ended in a disappointment.
"The French team fought the whole game, and they played very well defensively. We had the right amount of chances, quality chances, that's just how close it is in international hockey," coach Uwe Krupp said.
Last year, Les Bleus ended up in the relegation group but managed to stay in the top division by beating Italy. This year, they were trying to do one better and do it without last year’s leading scorer, Sébastien Bordeleau.
However, another rock the team was built on last year was back, namely defenceman Baptiste Amar, who may just be the tournament’s true MVP. In the first game against Switzerland, he played 29:48 minutes. Against Russia, just 16:29, but then he sat out most of the third period.
Against Germany, he played 31:43 minutes.
France got the start it wanted, when an odd bounce on a pass from one German defenceman to another on the German blueline opened the door for Anthoine Lussier to get on a breakway. He beat Dimitri Pätzold in the German goal, giving France the lead at 3:50.
In the next shift, Kevin Hecquefeuille got a double minor for high sticking. The Germans didn’t waste any time on powerplay, and Jochen Hecht deflected Michel Bakos’s shot past French goalkeeper Fabrice Lhenry.
At 16:48 Luc Tardif followed up on Laurent Meunier’s shots, and sent the third rebound into the net.
In the second period, the Germans pushed France to their heels but Lhenry didn’t make any mistakes.
Germany dominated the game completely for the last five minutes of the second period, but the French defence stood tall, helping Lhenry make the necessary saves, and even saving him the trouble by throwing themselves in front of several German shots.
The third period was more open, as the Germans’ push for a tying goal also gave France chances to go on attack. Germany's big opportunity came with eight minutes remaining when Benoit Quessandier got a two-minute penalty for delaying the game. Instead, France created the best scoring chances shorthanded.
With 1:19 remaining, Germany replaced its goalie with a sixth skater, creating a 6-on-4 powerplay. The French built a blue human wall between their net and the Germans shooting from the point.
"We knew it was going to be a close game, but .. we didn't score, simple as that. We had a lot of chances, but just couldn't get the puck in," Sven Felski said.