Underdog Austria will play in Sochi 2014 while the German men’s national team missed out on the Olympics for the first time since 1952 despite a 3-2 overtime victory.
The pre-game scenario was clear. Austria needed a win or at least one point from a loss in overtime or shootout to end the Final Olympic Qualification Group D on top of the standings. And that’s exactly what happened. Markus Peintner’s game-tying goal with 7:38 left in the third period brought Austria to the Olympics.
“Right now I’m just speechless,” Peintner said. “We worked so hard for that. We were the underdog. We knew Germany has a really good team but we stuck to our plan. At the end we were a little bit lucky but now we are just happy.”
Germany missed the chance to wrap things up in regulation time despite racking up 38-19 shots in its favour. They did so in overtime, but Patrick Reimer’s power-play goal was no reason for Germany to celebrate. The two points from the game was one point too little after the Germany had already missed out on two crucial points in an overtime defeat to Italy.
“Like of Friday we didn’t score enough goals in regulation and had to go to overtime,” German defenceman Constantin Braun said. “We knew we needed three points to go to Sochi. It’s really, really sad that we didn’t get one lucky bounce to score the third goal [in the third period] because we would have deserved it especially with a game like today.”
Austria will play in the Olympic men’s ice hockey tournament for the 13th time and for the first time since Salt Lake City 2002 while the German men’s national team failed in an Olympic Qualification for the first time in hockey history. The country had only missed three Olympic men’s ice hockey tournaments when it was banned after the two World Wars. From 1952 until 2010 Germany had always been represented in Olympic men’s ice hockey, putting up a streak of 16 consecutive participations.
“The whole team is disappointed. We had many chances to win this game and we missed on them,” German captain Michael Wolf said.
In one year from now Austria will play in Sochi’s easternmost district of Adler in the Bolshoi Ice Dome. “Adler” in German means eagle. But it will be the Austrian eagle that will be shown in the men’s tournament while Germany can at least cheer for their women’s national team, which qualified for the Games.
“We battled as hard as we could. We tried everything. Right now we still can’t believe it because it’s an unbelievable feeling. At this point we’re just happy that we made it,” said Austrian goalie Bernhard Starkbaum, who had 35 saves.
“Tonight we lost, but nobody cares. We played a good tournament and everybody stuck together. That’s why we had success. Everybody really deserves to go to Sochi.”
The first scoring chance of the game came in the first period at 1:16 when Austrian goalkeeper Bernhard Starkbaum brought the puck under control against German forward David Wolf, whose physical play against the netminder caused a scrum with Austrian defenceman Gerhard Unterluggauer.
The action continued that way with no fear of bruises on both sides and with more puck possession for the Germans.
The period seemed to continue with little action as the teams did neutralize each other well. But with 1:19 left in the opening frame, German defenceman Constantin Braun broke the deadlock with a hard shot on the power play from the right just inside the blueline that was deflected into the net by Benedikt Kohl.
Austria started the second period with a power play due to a tripping call against Braun that was assessed after the buzzer but again the Austrians didn’t manage to transform the man advantage to a goal. The biggest scoring opportunity came a couple of minutes later on the other side when Alexander Barta missed out on a breakaway.
However, midway through the game Austria made it 1-1. The goal came as sudden and surprising as Germany’s lead in the first period. Austrian defenceman Andre Lakos waited on the blueline at the right sideboards and hammered the puck in to tie the game.
Germany reacted, became more active and forced Austria to take penalties. After three straight power-play opportunities, Michael Wolf capitalized on the man advantage at 6:54 of the third period.
“We knew in the third period that we had to score and we had to press them also,” Austria head coach Manny Viveiros said. “They made it a 2-1 game and after that we had to go after the guys if we wanted to achieve our goal. We got the chance at the right moment and capitalized on it.”
The Austrians didn’t give up and continued their fierce battle of the underdog. At 12:22 it was bearded veteran forward Markus Peintner, who tied it up at two with a shot from roughly ten metres.
“We knew we have to be patient and if we tie the game we win the tournament,” said Peintner. “I didn’t think too much. I just wanted to score. I think I hit the post so I was a little bit lucky. At the end we had a really good tournament and deserved that.”
Time was running out for Germany now. Because Austria went into this game with the full number of six points out of two games and Germany had just four points due to the overtime loss against Italy, reaching overtime would already mean qualification for the Sochi Olympics for the Austrians.
Just in the crucial dying minutes of the game when it mattered most, mistakes started to accumulate on the German side. The host nation didn’t manage to create enough quality scoring opportunities and managed to pull the goalkeeper only with 61 seconds left when Pat Cortina took his time-out.
The effort was too late and too little. The Austrians celebrated the 2-2 score after 60 minutes and nothing could stop their celebration, not even Germany’s overtime-winning goal by Patrick Reimer.
“I’m very, very happy. We still wanted to win the game but the result wasn’t that important. It was important to go to the Olympic Games,” coach Viveiros said. “From the very first game our players bought into our system and we became better as the tournament went along.”
Austria will be seeded in Group B with Finland, defending Olympic champion Canada and Norway on Sochi 2014.
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