BRATISLAVA – Germany had been the annoying underdog many times, but Slovenia made it taste some its own medicine. Germany found a way to win, though, 3-2 after a penalty shootout.
Slovenia - Germany 2-3 (1-0, 1-1, 0-1, 0-0, 0-1) Game Sheet Photos
It's the first time since 1930 that Germany has three wins to start the tournament. In that first World Championship tournament, played in Chamonix, Berlin, and Vienna, Germany beat Great Britain (4-2), Hungary (4-1), and Poland (4-1) in its first three games. It even took a fourth win, beating Switzerland 2-1.
In this tournament, Germany will advance to the Qualification Round with six points.
"All the teams are really strong here. The games are really close. But we have more experience now after those one-goal games that we had last year in the Qualifying Round. That helps a lot. We’re ready for what’s ahead, and we’ve just got to keep pushing it," said German defenceman Justin Krueger.
Frank Hördler scored the game winning goal. Slovenia's Robert Sabolic collected two points, goaltender Robert Kristan made 58 saves.
Slovenia and Germany had played against each other just once before, in the relegation round at the 2005 IIHF World Championship in Innsbruck, Austria. It was Germany’s only win in the relegation round which Slovenia won.
This time, Germany had already two wins under their belt, while Slovenia was, due to its two losses in the tournament, destined to go to the relegation round again.
"It was a tough game to go into, because the points didn’t matter. But we wanted to keep battling and keep the momentum up that we established in the first few games," said Krueger.
Slovenia battled and fought, ready to do anything to win the game. Robert Kristan in Slovenia’s goal was a busy man, but he got a lot of help from his defence.
"I think the statistics tell us a lot about our goalie. He’s doing a really awesome job and we believe in him. We know he’s going to make that extra save that gives us extra energy. It was more than 60 shots, but the way the Germans were playing, they were just firing everything at the net," said Slovenian assistant captain Mitja Robar.
Slovenia came strong out of the gate, and about four minutes into the first period, Robert Sabolic lifted the puck to Ziga Jeglic, flying down the ice on the right. Jegic, who played with a full cage, protecting a broken nose, caught up with the puck by the hash marks, and fired a shot from the corner. The puck hit Kevin Lavallée in front of the net and got deflected into the German net at 4:09, for 1-0.
The game was about to reach its halfway point when the mostly Slovenia-cheering crowd got what they had been waiting for. Sabolic carried the puck into the German zone, skated around a German defenceman and passed the puck to the front of the net. Rok Ticar was in the right place at the right time, to beat Endras with a quick wrist shot to give Slovenia a two-goal lead at 8:33.
Then Slovenia got into penalty trouble. They managed to kill Ales Kranjc’s penalty off, but just 57 seconds after he got back in, Slovenia took a team penalty for too many men on the ice. André Rankel and Kai Hospelt played the puck to Michael Wolf who deflected Rankel’s hard pass from the corner into the net to make it 2-1 with 4:41 remaining in the second period.
Matej Hocevar’s hooking penalty put Slovenia in a difficult position to start the third period, but they fought like they had the two first periods. Shortly after Hocevar returned to action, Justin Krueger fired a wrist shot from the blueline. It missed the net, but bounced to the front of the net from the other side of the goal, and Felix Schütz was first to the puck, beating Kristan, who had come out of his net to meet Krueger’s shot, to tie the game at 5:32.
Both teams had a few scoring chances, but neither one could capitalize on them, and the game was tied 2-2 after regulation time.
In the overtime, Krueger had a golden opportunity to become the hero, but his shot from two meters missed the net. In the next shift, Sabolic fired a slapshot from the faceoff circle, but Endras made a great pad save.
The shootout was the goalies' battle. Only two of the first 14 shooters scored, but Frank Hördler put an end to the hockey game with a quick wrist shot that beat Kristan, and gave Germany two points.
Slovenia will have to fight for its spot in the top division.
"This was good for our confidence for future games. It was a good game, and we can be proud. Even though we couldn’t make that final step in the end for a win, we competed pretty well with the German team. They won all their games in our group, so they’re a really good team," said Robar.