So great was the German dominance that Frank Fischoder’s team secured gold with a game to spare: back-to-back 5-2 victories over Denmark and Kazakhstan left its closest rivals in its wake and promotion was confirmed in emphatic style with a 13-1 drubbing of relegation-bound Ukraine. An impressive week of hockey was rounded off with a 9-3 victory over the host nation to make it five wins from five as the youngsters brought Germany back to the top level of U18 hockey for the first time since 2015.
Head coach Fischoder said: “This was a great performance from everyone involved. I am very proud of the team and the entire staff who worked hard for this success. It’s a very important achievement for German hockey that our under-18s are first class once again and, at the same time, it was a great end to a long season.”
The news was also a boost to Toni Soderholm, head coach of the men’s national team, as he prepares for next month’s World Championship in Slovakia. “This promotion is enormously important for the future of German hockey and it gives everyone incredible motivation. It proves that we are ready for the next level and for the challenges that lie ahead.”
The German success in France follows the promotion of the U20s on home ice back in December and means that next season will see Germany competing at the top level of all three age groups in the men’s game. With the country promoting its POWERPLAY 26 vision of establishing itself as a regular medal contender in the coming years, development of its youth development program is vital.
President of the German Ice Hockey Association and IIHF Council Member Franz Reindl was delighted with the results in France.
“Congratulations to the team, coach and staff for reaching our big goal with four wins in a row,” he said after the demolition of Ukraine. “This team has been incredibly stable and the guys worked at a high level. This promotion means another step forward for German ice hockey after the promotion of the U20s and a seventh-placed finish from the women’s team. It all fits in with our concept. We will see a lot more of these players in the future.”
When Reindl talks about seeing more of these players, he could have the likes of Tim Stutzle in mind. The 17-year-old from Viersen is off to the NCAA next season where he’ll play for the University of New Hampshire as the next stage of his hockey career takes shape. Last season he plundered 55 (23+32) points in just 21 games for Adler Mannheim’s U20 team, prolific scoring while competing against older players. In Grenoble he potted 9 (2+7) points and was selected as the tournament’s leading forward. Fellow forward Nino Kinder also collected nine points this week: this 18-year-old made his debut in the adult DEL for Eisbaren Berlin during the season and is set to continue in the German capital next year.
Elsewhere on the roster, there’s a familiar surname. Lukas Reichel, another Eisbaren prospect and a linemate of Kinder on the national team, is the nephew of IIHF Hall of Famer Robert Reichel, an Olympic champion with the Czechs in Nagano and veteran of 830 NHL appearances. Lukas’s father, Martin, was a distinguished hockey player in his own right and gained German citizenship after coming to play for Freiburg in the early 1990s. Now his son, aged just 16, is starting to follow in his footsteps and join the national program. Reichel Jr had 5 (3+2) points from five games in Grenoble and is eligible for two more tournaments at this age group.
Among the defencemen, first line pairing Simon Gnyp and Maksymilian Szuber caught the eye as they posted +/- scores in double figures. Gnyp has already made his DEL debut with Kolner Haie, the 17-year-old playing 14 games last season. Szuber, 16, a Polish-born dual national currently playing his club hockey with the Red Bull Salzburg organization, finished with a tournament-leading +11.
Kazakhstan took second place in the tournament behind Germany, beating Denmark in a shootout on the last day to move in front of the Danes. Norway came in fourth with host nation France down in fifth place following its relegation from the elite pool last season. Only an overtime victory in the opening game against Ukraine, secured by a Quentin Tomasino goal, secured the French a place in Division IA and sent newly-promoted Ukraine back to Division IB. While Germany’s Stutzle took the top forward prize, the leading goalie was Norway’s Frederik Nissen (2.37 GAA, 92.16 SVS%) and Kazakhstan’s Madi Diikhanbek was voted best defenceman (1+4 points).