NUREMBERG, Germany – Germany vs. Switzerland belongs to the traditional rivalries in European ice hockey – not only for fans and media but also for the players on the national teams. The rivalry will now carry over to club hockey when the Sinupret Ice Tigers Nuremberg open the Champions Hockey League qualification against SC Bern.
The Ice Tigers also played the last game against a Swiss team in a top European club competition when they split a two-game series against HC Lugano in the 1999-2000 European Hockey League.
German national team forward Petr Felski, in his sixth season with the Bavarians, can hardly wait to play SC Bern Friday evening.
“We’re hot and we’re happy that we reached that tournament. We want to have a good performance and beat the Swiss,” said the 30-year-old, Czech-born player.
He already knows some of Bern’s players after playing in four world championships, the 2006 Olympics and the 2004 World Cup of Hockey for Germany.
“I’ve played many games for Germany and it’s good to bring in that experience. Everything will be a little faster, like at the national team level. Little things and little mistakes can make the difference.”
The Ice Tigers didn’t have a good start to the season, losing to Frankfurt and to Eisbären Berlin, 4-2.
“We’re not where we want to be, but we worked hard this week for the tournament. It will be tough against Bern, their imports are big hits. They’re league is doing the right thing by not allowing too many imports. It could be very physical. We have to skate as quickly as they do and we may not be so often in the sin bin. That was the problem in our first two games,” Felski says.
New Ice Tigers head coach Andreas Brockmann expects a high-speed game with two offensive teams. “It’s like a playoff game in September for us,” he said. The Ice Tigers watched SC Bern in its NLA opener against EHC Biel on Friday. “And we’ll see Kosice tomorrow, that’s enough.”
Brockmann, who came from second-tier EV Landshut, took over after Benoît Laporte surprisingly left the team after the playoffs. The 41-year-old former national team player celebrated five championships during his playing career, four of them with Düsseldorfer EG.
As the host team, the Ice Tigers dictated the schedule and have one day off between games. A big advantage, most would say. Brockmann doesn’t agree: “The arenas today are not as small as the old ones, so the home ice advantage is not as big anymore. It also depends on the outcome of the first game. If we lose, it may be an advantage to have a day off. Finally, the players are all pros. They’re used to two games in two days.”
Brockmann’s prediction? “I think all teams are on a similar level,” he said. Sport director Otto Sykora seems to be more concerned:
“Bern is the clear favourite and Kosice might be on a similar level as we are.” The Bern clash will clearly be important, and the club hopes to have 5,000 fans.
The Ice Tigers will bring some Canadian spice into the tournament with 12 North Americans including top goalkeeper Frédéric Cassivi, from the AHL’s Hershey Bears, and two brothers, Brad and Greg Leeb.
They also re-signed last season’s captain Christian Laflamme. Originally, the defenceman retired from the top level and wanted to join the semi-pro team Pont-Rouge Lois Jeans of the LNAH in his native province Quebec. Now he’s back, just for the two games.
Head coach Brockmann is looking forward to the experience and composure of the 31-year-old, who had 333 NHL games but it’s unknown yet with whom he’ll be playing. “We need to keep some secrets,” he says. In a couple of hours, it will be disclosed.Notebook:
- Reigning champion Eisbären Berlin, which is already qualified for the CHL, has two wins in its first two games, same as Augsburger Panther, Krefeld Pinguine and promoted Kassel Huskies. The DEG Metro Stars Düsseldorf leads the standings with seven points in three games.
- Eisbären Berlin will play its first DEL game in its new arena O2 World on Sunday against Augsburger.
- The Berliners will have to do without national team player Sven Felski. He received a four-game suspension and €1200 fine after heading Kölner Haie's Bryan Adams.
- The Grizzly Adams Wolfsburg' Sebastian Furchner leads the league with four goals and three assists after two games and teammate Norm Milley is third with five points.
- Former Team Canada goalkeeper Fred Brathwaite, who moved to Adler Mannheim after playing three of the last four seasons in Russia is the hottest goalkeeper with a 96.6 save percentage. The busiest one has been Düsseldorf’s Jamie Storr, who had six goals on 113 shots (94.7%).
- Six of 16 clubs still have to earn a point. The Straubing Tigers, Nuermberg, Füchse Duisburg, Kölner Haie, ERC Ingolstadt and the Hamburg Freezers are all winless.