Germans win back-to-back
by Derek O'Brien|22 MAY 2021
Germany's Lukas Reichel #73 celebrates with Marcel Noebels #92 after scoring a goal against Norway.
photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images

In a balanced attack, five different players scored for Germany and 19-year-old Lukas Reichel recorded two points in a 5-1 win over Norway in Group B’s first game on Saturday. It was Norway’s first game of the tournament and Germany’s second win in less than 24 hours after trouncing Italy 9-4 yesterday.

There’s no question that Germany was the more talented of the two teams and the obvious favourite but, as we saw last night between Canada and Latvia, a team that plays as a cohesive unit is often very difficult to beat, especially so early in the tournament.

With several returning players from the last World Championship and, in general, a roster that plays together frequently, Norway is often a very difficult team to play against and they served notice that they won’t be pushovers.

“The opponent started with energy but we didn’t have any problems,” said German coach Toni Soderholm. “We almost played the game we wanted. The tempo was higher today against Norway; the game was more physical and suited us. Norway challenged our players and our players played a very solid game.”

“I think we played good and bad,” said Norwegian head coach Petter Thoresen. “In the first period, the Germans controlled the puck but we kept them away from scoring until the end of the period, when they got that one. 8-10 in shots, so it was a pretty good period.”

Throughout the first period, Norway ground down the Germans and turned the game into a defensive stalemate. The Germans quickly learned that if they were going to win this game, they’d have to roll up their sleeves and do the spadework. It paid off with 15.3 seconds left in the opening frame when they created a ton of traffic in front of Henrik Haukeland, and then Moritz Muller floated a shot from the point that Matthias Plachta deflected out of mid-air and just inside the post on the glove side.

“The Norwegians wanted to start well in the tournament and we played yesterday,” said German forward Matthias Plachta. “We had to find our way into the game but we survived the first wave and improved our game. For the players from Berlin and North America it was the first game. We will improve game by game.”

“A couple of our forwards had too-long shifts and were tired and, yeah, that was hard to see at the end of the period,” said Thoresen. “Maybe that was one of the reasons for our poor start to the second period, but in the second half of the second period we played better.”

Norway vs Germany - 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship
In a balanced attack, five different players scored for Germany and 19-year-old Lukas Reichel recorded two points in a 5-1 win over Norway.
NOR GER 22 MAY 2021

Germany doubled its lead on a 4-on-3 power play early in the second period after coincidental penalties and then Emil Lilleberg was called for a check to the head. Marcel Brandt nicely teed up a one-timer from Leon Gawanke that sailed just over Haukeland’s glove.

“I think the start of the second was not good. The Germans were harder on the puck and had a little better speed and better passing and scored three goals against us. Especially the goal on the 4-on-3 was too easy to give away,” said Thoresen. “They were the better team today, no question about that. I think the guys worked hard but we gave away the puck too much in dangerous places.”

Now down by a pair, Norway now needed to open up to get back into it and started to push. Emilio Pettersen very nearly got his team on the board when he was set up on a pass from behind the net but Mathias Niederberger made his most timely save of the game, denying him from point blank. Solid when he needed to be, Niederberger stopped 24 of 25 German shots in the game.

“We tried but they did a good job defensively,” said Ken Andre Olimb. “They didn’t give up a lot of opportunities and when we did, their goalie was good.”

Moments later, Germany went up 3-0 after a neutral-zone turnover and a strong counter-attack, with Leonhard Pfoderl finishing off a nice tic-tac-toe passing play. Then just past the game’s midpoint, Christian Kaasastul mishandled the puck at the point and Lukas Reichel seized the opportunity. The Chicago Blackhawks’ first-round pick skated in alone, showing his tremendous strength on the puck as he easily fended off a back-checking attempt and scored five-hole.

“Lukas’ goal was incredible. He showed his incredible class; not everybody can do this,” said Plachta. “He showed why he was picked that early in the NHL draft.”

“I think we came out with a pretty good pace and got scoring chances but we just couldn’t score,” said Ken Andre Olimb. “If we’d got the first one, it might have been a different story. In the second, we were too naive and gave up too many opportunities. That’s something we definitely have to improve for future games because there are a lot of teams in our group that will punish you for that.”

Ken Andre's older brother Mathis Olimb helped get Norway on the board late in the second period. The former KHLer and Champions Hockey League MVP unleashed a wrister through a crowd that was tipped by Lilleberg in front, somewhat reminiscent of Germany’s game-opening goal.

But it was too little, too late for the Norwegians. Lean Bergmann restored Germany’s four-goal lead early in the third when his left-hand wrister from the right wing beat Haukeland – stop me if you’ve heard this one before – high to the glove side.

“We had a decent first period, then they had a bouncy goal and we kind of fell apart,” Mathis said. “We got energy again when we scored but we didn’t really look like ourselves. It didn’t look good enough offensively.”

From there, the Germans locked the game down and cruised to victory. Now after playing two of Group B’s first three games and winning both by a combined 14-5 score, the Germans get more than 48 hours off before facing Canada on Monday night.

“We don’t want to hide ourselves against the big nations,” Reichel said about tomorrow’s game. “If we play well, we can have a chance against anybody.”

Norway is back at it in Sunday’s early game against Italy.

Norway vs Germany - 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship