Surging into the U.S. zone after seven minutes of overtime, he cut a swathe through the defence and left Lane Hutson trailing in his wake before angling a shot past Casey DeSmith. The puck found the top corner to win a dramatic game in Tampere.
"We knew we needed just one shot," said German forward Maximilian Kastner. "I think we got that shot. It was the golden goal. We are so happy that we won today. It's an unbelievable moment right now. I don't have the words. I'm just very proud."
Fellow forward Sam Soramies added: "It's a huge, huge step for German hockey, and it gives us big media recognition in Germany. That will make German hockey bigger, and we need that for sure."
Tiffels' big moment puts Germany into its first ever gold medal game at a World Championship. Tomorrow, the country plays Canada for its first ever world title, already assured of a first IIHF medal since 1953. For the Americans, it's a battle for bronze against a Latvian team looking for its first ever IIHF hardware.
Saturday's semi-final was a microcosm of Germany's World Championship. A fast start from the USA put the Germans down 0-2 inside four minutes. But, much like a group stage campaign that began with three losses and ended with a powerful winning streak, the team recovered. Level at the end of the first period, Germany fell behind again in the second only to force the extras in dramatic fashion.
With 87 seconds left in regulation, Marcel Noebels tied it up at 3-3 and overtime ended in German joy thanks to Tiffels’ winner.
That prospect seemed remote when Alex Tuch put the U.S. up 1-0 after just 71 seconds. The German defence did not pick up Tuch's move to the back door, where he had a simple task to convert a cross-ice feed from Drew O’Connor. Soon Tuch was involved again, making an interception and quickly releasing Rocco Grimaldi. The USA’s leading scorer ripped one over Mathias Niederberger’s shoulder to make it 2-0 on 3:56. The 30-year-old moves on to 12 (5+7) points, tied with Dominik Kubalik at the head of the tournament scoring race.
Given that the Americans have tended to start slowly and get stronger in games here in Tampere, it was tempting to assume Germany’s gold medal race was run. But Harold Kreis's team has proven its own resilience. And, by the first intermission, the scores were level.
The first power play of the game saw Tiffels put the Germans on the scoreboard. He battled for position on the slot as Daniel Fischbuch slammed in a shot. Under pressure from Tiffels, Casey DeSmith allowed the puck to get through his defences to make it 1-2. Then, on 16:03, Maksymillian Szuber’s perfectly-placed shot off a Nico Sturm feed found the net via the inside of the post to tie the game.
"I don't think we were relaxing, but we got away from our game for two minutes," admitted American defender Hutson. "We took a couple of penalties and it was tough putting the puck in the net after that."
Now the USA had to answer questions, and it ended first period in penalty trouble. However, Germany could not capitalize on a five-on-three chance that spanned the intermission. Back at full strength, Grimaldi thought he had his second of the night, only for a review to show that Niederberger somehow managed to flip the puck off the goal line with his trailing skate.
"I didn't really know if it was in, but I felt it on my heel and I tried to keep it out," said Niederberger. "I guess it was luck and, in hindsight, it was a pretty big moment but you don’t know it at the time. I’m really happy it didn’t cross the line."
However, there was no reprieve for Germany midway through the session as Mikey Eyssimont restored the American lead. Niederberger stopped the initial effort but Eyssimont did well to retrieve the puck and win an arm wrestle on the crease to stuff it beyond the goaltender.
That pushed Germany to attack in the third. There were bright moments – Fischbuch unlocking the defence with a no-look pass for Maximillian Kastner, Jonas Muller dinging the piping, Justin Schutz narrowly failing to stuff the puck home at the back door. However, the USA held its lead until there was just 1:23 left on the clock.
Then came Noebels. One of the survivors of the 2018 Olympic silver medal team, he grabbed a huge tying goal to keep Germany’s 2023 golden dream alive. It wasn’t the most elegant of tallies, more effort than flair, but the familiar maxim of pucks to the net and bodies to the crease paid off when he banged in a loose puck to spark jubilation among the German fans.
"They made a good play, got a couple of rebounds, and found the open guy back door," said U.S. goalie DeSmith.
The Americans dominated much of the 10-minute overtime period, with Cutter Gaulthier getting chances to show off his shot. However, Tiffels came close to winning it on the breakaway for Germany with an effort that looped onto the roof of the net before a relieved DeSmith could grab the puck.
"That one stings. I thought we had a great tournament, but we lost the lead late," said DeSmith. "The bronze medal is not what we came here for, but it's also a pretty big honour,. There's a lot of good teams here."