HELSINKI – The only thing Germany’s goaltender Rob Zepp didn’t catch in the game against Austria was some Z’s as he made 27 saves en route to a shutout. Germany beat Austria 2-0, Marcus Kink scored the game winner at the end of the second period.
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Kink was also credited with Germany's second goal with nine seconds remaining in the game.
"We had a tough start in the first period. But then we really started picking it up, every period. We were disciplined toward the end and got the win," said Justin Krueger.
"I think at this level, if you have so many chances on the power play, you have to use them, and we weren’t able to do that today," said Austria's Daniel Welser.
In February, Austria and Germany played in the Final Olympic Qualification tournament for a spot in Sochi 2014. That time, Germany scored a Pyrrhic victory, beating Austria in a penalty shootout – when it needed a win in regulation time.
"We knew it was going to be a tough game today. Especially after what happened at the Olympic qualification, we really wanted to get a win against these guys. It was important to prove ourselves against our neighbouring rival," Krueger said.
On Wednesday, the stakes weren’t quite as high but both teams were naturally anxious to get three points.
A regulation win would take Austria past France, and six points from the last place. A German regulation win would lift the country to sixth place in the standings, over Austria.
And it turned to be a real nail-biter.
The game’s first period was eventful, with the teams exchanging scoring chances early on. Austria had a breakaway, and a German forward a wide open front of the net, but both Rob Zepp in Germany’s goal and Bernhard Starkbaum in Austria’s turned away everything in the first period.
Germany was pushed to their heels in the first period due to their four penalties, and Austria even had a 5-on-3 power play for 50 seconds, but couldn’t capitalize on their chances.
Germany got their power-play opportunity halfway through the second period thanks to David Schuller’s unnecessary holding penalty he received for grabbing Germany’s captain Christian Ehrhoff’s arm in a puck battle in Germany’s zone. Ehrhoff, who has averaged over 30 minutes in the game in the tournament, stayed on to quarterback the German power play, but Starkbaum stayed strong in Austria’s goal.
"It was definitely tough to stay patient. We were really hungry. But we just kept getting penalties. There wasn’t a lot of flow to today’s game. We maybe weren’t as disciplined as in previous games," said Germany's John Tripp.
And then, with exactly three minutes remaining in the second period, Marcus Kink carried the puck over the blueline, into the Austrian zone, and forced and stickhandled his way between two Austrian defencemen, and beat Starkbaum for the first time, giving Germany the lead in the game.
"It was a beautiful goal. He streaked through the neutral zone with good speed. That just shows he’s a good scorer. He picked the corner at a time when we needed a big goal," said Krueger.
The puck got deflected from Starkbaum’s stick as he was trying to poke check Kink.
Halfway through the third period, Germany got a great chance to put the game to bed, when Thomas Vanek received a cross-checking minor after he hit a German player after the whistle. Austria killed the penalty, abd got ready for a big last-minute push.
With 1:32 remaining in the third period, Austria took a time out, and pulled Starkbaum. Zepp and the German defence could weather the storm and with nine seconds remaining, Germany got its second goal when Thomas Vanek slashed down Marcus Kink, who was about to send the puck into an an empty Austrian net. The goal was credited to Kink.
"It’s definitely nice to beat Austria. It’s never easy. They did find a way to steal the Olympics away from us. So it’s not really much revenge, because they’re still going to the Olympics. But if we can get to the quarter-finals, that’ll make us feel a little better," Tripp said.