HALIFAX – Germany’s ninth place finish at the 2007 World Championships was a return to respectability. After being relegate after the 2005 World Championships, Germany fought back in Division I and were reasonably impressive last spring. The ninth place finish was its best finish since 2004 but they have a lot of work to do if they hope to replicate their 6th place finish in 2003.
Dmitri Patzold joined the national team last year and won two of the three games he played. Patzold made a strong case for his being the leading candidate as Germany’s netminder. At the age of 24, Patzold could be the heir apparent to Olaf Kolzig in goal. Dmitri Kotschnew saw limited action last year. Born in Kazakhstan, Kotschnew has played exclusively in Germany.
Defensive coverage will be important in containing the many high-skills forwards here in Halifax. Much-needed experience will come from Dennis Seidenberg and Christoph Schubert. Both players bring a North American feel for the game their defensive compatriots do not. Germany’s defense was not able to generate offense or create opportunities down low for its forwards. Of the nine defensemen in Moscow, three registered any points. Robert Dietrich led the way with two goals and four points. Martin Ancicka added three assists in five games. Germany was effective on the penalty kill in 2007 finishing second in the tournament with an 88% efficiency.
Marco Sturm is coming off his best season in the NHL playing for the Boston Bruins. His offensive output is critical. Michael Wolf and Michael Hackert provided a powerful scoring combination for the Germans. Both had impressive debuts at the World Championships. Michael Wolf led Germany in scoring with eight points in six games. This was a catalyst for the winger who grew more confident as the tournament progressed. It carried into this season when he scored 44 goals in 56 games with the Iserlohner Roosters in the German League. In his now confirmed status as a sniper, Wolf will be tapped to do the same in Canada. Hackert scored seven points finishing second behind Wolf. Young playmaker Phillip Gogulla was a revelation. The somewhat awkward skating and lanky Gogulla led the team in Moscow with five assists. Longtime minor hockey journeyman John Tripp, Kingston, Ontario born, is making his second straight appearance with the national team. Sven Felski enjoyed his best World Championship in Moscow, scoring four points. He’s also coming off a productive season - and one of his best in the DEL - with the Eisbaren Berlin side.
Uwe Krupp took the reins in 2006 when Germany was relegated out of the top group of World Championship play. Krupp remade the team and infused the lineup with youth, which at the time was somewhat controversial. Not only did a younger lineup compete but also outscored opponents 35-4 in clinching a berth back in the top group. Krupp then led Germany to a ninth place finish last year in Moscow. Krupp is widely acknowledged as one of the great players in German hockey history. He is also the first German player to win a Stanley Cup. A veteran of 729 NHL games, Krupp sees the game as a player but able to communicate effectively as a coach in getting his team to produce results. Ernst Hofner and Klaus Merk are Krupp’s assistants.
Germany can produce a solid mid-table result but will want more. One way or another, early round matches against Finland and Slovakia will reveal a lot about this Germany’s depth and desire.