COLOGNE – Every inch of the ice was a battlefield as Germany and Slovakia went head to head for a spot in the quarterfinal. Backed by their home crowd, the Germans pushed through with a 2-1 win.
Alexander Barta and Daniel Kreutzer scored a goal each, Dennis Endras made 20 saves en route to the win.
“Sure, there was pressure to get back after what happened in Switzerland. We got a lot of pressure after that tournament and I think we deserved it," said German defenceman Christian Ehrhoff.
It’s the first time since 2003 under then-coach Hans Zach that the Germans reached the quarterfinals. Seven years ago the Germans lost to eventual gold-medal winner Canada 3-2 in overtime. Third-period goals by Lasse Kopitz and Daniel Kreutzer tied up the score before Eric Brewer scored the game-winner 37 seconds into overtime.
After twentysome games this year, and a few days of frenetic computing about different matchups to see who’d advance and who would not, the game between Germany and Slovakia came down to an easy set up. The team that got more points out of the game would advance to the playoffs stage. This time it was the Germans while Slovakia missed the quarterfinals for the third time in a row.
"We knew it was going to be a big fight, and a low-scoring game. We knew we'd be fighting for every inch of the ice. Maybe we didn't have hockey luck or hockey sense, but we couldn't score a second goal," said Slovakia's captain Richard Lintner.
Germany got a perfect start to the game when Alexander Barta scored the first goal of the game at 7:19. Barta came flying down the right wing, and found Daniel Kreutzer waiting for the puck at the far post. Barta got the puck him, but Kreutzer’s shot missed the net. Fortunately for Germany, it bounced from the backboard to Barta, who had half the net to choose where to place his backhander.
Slovakia had only five shots on Germany’s goal in the first period.
Germany took command of the game early in the second period again. At 4:42, Barta and Kreutzer made it a two-goal game, this time Kreutzer getting the goal. Barta and Sven Felski put pressure on Slovakian defencemen behind the Slovakian net, Barta grabbed a loose puck and found Kreutzer alone in the slot and this time, he didn’t miss, and beat Peter Buraj high on the stick side.
Felix Schütz’s 2+2 high-sticking penalty gave Slovakia its chance to get back into the game. With 20 seconds remaining in Schütz’s latter penalty, Marek Svatos got the puck at the hash marks, he cut to the middle, went around a German defenceman, and fired a hard and accurate wrist shot to top shelf, beating Endras on the glove side, at 19:17.
Slovakia made a final push with one minute remaining, but the game ended in Germany's victory dance in front of Endras's net.
“You just want to get your body in front of the shots and guys out in front of the net. Once you hear the siren you are relieved," Ehrhoff said.
"We’re just going to enjoy the night and see what happens tomorrow," he added.
Slovak captain Richard Lintner said the team was "disappointed, but not upset."
"I know for sure that all our guys left 100 percent on the ice," he said.
On another positive German note, the organizing committee announced during the game that with tonight's attendance, 15,100, they also met the attendance goal set for the tournament, 400,000 spectators.
Germany was the fourth team to qualify for the quarterfinals, and will take on the second-place team of Group F.