German joy at first victory
by Andy Potts|18 MAY 2023
German captain Moritz Muller celebrates his goal in a 6-4 victory over Denmark at the 2023 IIHF World Championship in Tampere, Finland.
After a rough start to its World Championship campaign, Germany got off the mark in game four with victory over Denmark. A crazy flurry of five goals in the last five minutes ultimately saw a 6-4 verdict for Harold Kreis’s team.

However, the key action came in the second period. Down 1-0 at the intermission, Germany outshot Denmark 17-2 and took a 3-2 lead into the final frame. That was looking like enough to do the job until five minutes of crazy at the last.

"That second period, we played some of our best hockey," said Nico Sturm, who got the final goal to seal the German win. "We were strong on the puck, we know everybody hates defending.

"I don’t know how many shots we had but I thought we were all over them. We finally got a little more traffic to the net. That’s something that was quite missing in the first games, that grittiness and maybe pushing one over the goalline. I thought we made a step in the right direction today."

This was Denmark’s first loss in Tampere. No Danish team had ever won its first four games at a top division World Championship and Heinz Ehlers’ class of 2023 was unable to break new ground despite a good start to the game.

Forward Patrick Russell was blunt in his assessment: "That wasn't good enough defensively. We let them score too many goals. We just weren't good enough."

The first period belonged to Denmark. Apart from an early effort from Moritz Seider that dinged Frederik Dichow’s post, Germany posed little threat. At the other end, the Danes got ahead when Matias Lassen fired in a shot from the blue line and opened the scoring via a kind deflection off Moritz Muller.

Germany had the only power play of the opening frame but could not muster a shot on target in the two minutes. Then, in the last minute of play, Leon Gewanke miscontrolled at the point when shaping to shoot, seeing the puck dribble into centre ice. It rather summed up his team’s first 20 minutes.

"The pressure was there," admitted Sturm. "When we look at the standings and we’re on zero points, of course sometimes that can chip away on your confidence a little bit. I think you could probably see in the first 10 minutes or so confidence wasn’t quite there.

"But I'm super proud of how we reacted and adapted to the game, instead of doubting ourselves."

It all changed in the middle frame. Recognizing that their quarter-final hopes were in danger of sliding away with a whimper, Germany raised the tempo. The play was largely around the Danish net and midway through the session that pressure paid off. J.J. Peterka got the tying goal with a low shot from the right-hand circle. Dichow had a clear view of it, but inexplicably allowed it through his pads.

Things got worse for the Danish goalie a couple of minutes later when Muller chipped the puck hopefully into the end zone. Dichow gave up a big rebound, and Alexander Ehl pounced gleefully to score his first goal of the tournament and put Germany in front.

"Maybe it was a little bit lucky," Ehl said. "But that comes from hard work. It's a dirty goal, but I'm really happy about it."

Meanwhile, there was little Dichow or anyone else could do about the third German goal, a smooth passing play between Peterka and Marcel Noebels that set up Moritz Muller low in the left-hand circle for a laser-like wrister.

A difficult session for Denmark ended on a high when Mathias Bau pulled a goal back seconds before the intermission. He went for precision rather than power, placing his shot through a thicket of skates and finding Mathias Niederberger’s five-hole to make it a one-goal game. Tellingly, that was only the second Danish shot of a one-sided second period. It set up an intriguiging third.

"We talked about how they were gonna come for sure," said Germany's Dominik Kahun. "We were ready for that. But they played hard today, made a lot of pressure on us in the D-zone and they deserved to score their last goal there. But we reacted pretty well and scored some more goals."

The game exploded into life with five minutes to play. The Danes forced a tying goal when Nick Olesen battled out of the corner with the puck and set up Wejse on the doorstep. He produced a forehand-backhand shuffle to beat Niederberger and make it 3-3.

Danish delight was soon replaced with German joy. Just 20 seconds after the tying goal, Germany regained the lead when Jonas Muller fired in a shot from the centre point that beat Dichow over the glove. Denmark's hopes suffered a further blow on 57:55 when Niklas Andersen took a boarding minor, allowing Germany to close out the game on the power play. 

An empty-net goal for Noebels looked like the end of the story, but with 32 seconds left Wejse struck again to make it 4-5 and revive Denmark's dream. Germany was facing an uncomfortable finish until Nico Sturm grabbed the puck from the face off and sent it to the empty net to bring an end to a helter-skelter finale.

"That's hockey, right?" smiled Sturm. "They have good players on their team and so do we. I think we were all aware that they weren’t going to go away just because we got an empty-netter on them."
Denmark vs Germany - 2023 IIHF WM