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There are two super sensations in the World Championships! How did Germany and Latvia break into the hockey elite?

Date: June 3, 2023 Time: 10:30:25

The 2023 World Cup was incredible: there is not a single team from the European big four in the final. If Russia did not have a chance to get there due to politics, then the Finns, Swedes, Czechs and Swiss who replaced our team on the Eurotour can only reproach themselves. Now Latvia can win their first medal in history, and Germany their first in 70 years, and the prospect of both teams making it to the top three no longer seems entirely fantastic. How did it happen?

In 2018, the Germans stopped a minute away from the Olympic gold medal, and then it seemed to many a single increase: a very short tournament, the complete absence of NHL players, finally, the Germans themselves racked up a lot of victories in extra time along the way. However, after that, the hockey Neue Deutsche Welle named after Seider and Stützle was shown at the MFM, and after that the Neue Deutsche Härte was also felt by the adult teams. This is the second time in three years that Germany has been in the top 4 of the World Cup, although this has happened only once in the previous 70 years.

When talking about the successes of small teams in the World Cup, the same argument is constantly cited: “but so-and-so didn’t make it to the top”. But don’t think that this Bundesteam brought the ideal lineup to the tournament. Due to injury, Ottawa did not let Tim Stutzle go to the tournament, who unnoticed by someone knocked out 90 points in the season, and Leon Draisaitl himself refused after a grueling season. At the same time, Germany, due to the same injuries, also lost several notable attackers who are now playing in Europe: for example, former NHL players Tom Kuenhakl, Tobias Rieder. For one reason or another, only one of the top ten DEL scorers among the Germans made it to the tournament.

harold kreis

Photo: AP/TASS

In addition, in the middle of the season, Toni Söderholm went to work at the club, and Harold Kreis became the Bundestrainer – a 64-year-old coach who twice won the Swiss championship, but worked only as an assistant in the national team. . Kreis was forced to rejuvenate the squad by bringing in newcomers: Germany 2023 is the youngest squad after the slightly experimental squad from 2014. And it’s not just young Seiders or 21-year-old John-Jason Peterka from Buffalo ( the third scorer of the World Cup), for example, 23-year-old Wojciech Stachowiak from Ingolstadt scored many important points, which he spent the first serious season at the adult level.

The Germans started the group stage with three straight losses against the top teams, but the game looked good against the USA and Finland. Future opponents in the semifinals, Kreis’s team locked themselves in the zone more than once, but the realization of the moments suffered monstrously – the Germans were able to hold on to extra time. However, the “flyer” at first did not interfere – Germany won the de facto final game with Denmark and confidently defeated all the clearly lower teams in the class, allowing them to take fourth place.

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Switzerland’s passage to the quarterfinals is a sensation and not a sensation at the same time. The Germans have already become a hockey nightmare for their neighbors: in 2018 they beat them in the 1/8 Olympic Games, and in 2021 in the quarterfinals of the World Cup. The third meeting in three years ended the same way, which was not entirely surprising: Patrick Fischer’s team was too weak-willed to fly in the quarterfinals of the last World Cup and lost to the Germans purely in the game in 2021. Also, for some reason, the Swiss coaches, instead of the more experienced Leonardo Genoni, trusted Robert Mayer, and he frankly fell asleep the first German goal.

The Germans may not medal again at this point, but recent German hockey successes are definitely not a surge or an accident. Red Bull Munich (sponsor is clear) and Adler Mannheim (sponsor is the well-known company SAP) academies are working successfully with local youth, four clubs from Germany are in the top 15 in terms of attendance in Europe, and the level of foreign players in DEL is slowly growing. At the moment, thanks to this, and also thanks to the full-time success in games with Switzerland, the Germans are making a solid bid for the right to be the main team in the world outside of the “big six”.

john jason peterka

Photo: AP/TASS

Quite a different story with the Latvian national team. Five players from this team reached their tenth (or even more) World Cup, half of the team had five World Cups or more, there were only two debutants. The World Cup at home is of course not the time for experimentation. Even those people who have retired are still close to the national team: Lauris Darzins became an assistant to Harijs Vitolins.

With all this, it cannot be said that the Latvians have assembled the most optimal composition for the World Cup at home, which is usually obtained from other teams: Zemgus Girgensons suddenly refused, Elvis Merzlikin spent a nightmare season in Columbus and still clearly hasn’t moved Away from the death of a club mate and the selection of Mathis Kivlenieks, Teddy Bluegers is busy in the playoffs. But this did not stop the Latvians at all.

In the preview of the World Cup it was already noted: the bad thing about the lack of renewal of the selection is an excellent teamwork, and surely Daugavins, Kenins, Balcers and company have studied each other perfectly. Well, Harijs Vitolins adequately accepted the banner from the hands of Bob Hartley – last year, purely in terms of playing both at the World Championship and at the Olympics, the Latvians looked decent, they played in a modern style, without sitting on the defensive. . but the implementation failed.

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Of course, now many factors have converged for the historic success. For the first time since 2006, the Latvians hold an international tournament with their fans (there were no spectators in 2021 due to covid), and their energy often helps small teams. The Swiss helped out a bit, resting their leaders and playing relaxed overall after a guaranteed first place in the group. Well, in the quarterfinals, the main sweet roll among the best teams came – the Swedes in the 21st century gave Belarus, Germany and Slovakia a vacation at the Olympics, and two years ago they managed not to leave the World Cup group. World.

If you highlight a specific player, it will be goalkeeper Artur Shilov. A year ago, he was better in statistics than Merzlikin, but still he started second in this tournament: Ivars Punnenovs missed two Canadian goals in five minutes and didn’t spend another minute in the tournament. Shilov is the main goalkeeper for the Vancouver estate, who managed to play five games as a point guard, saved 40 shots in the quarterfinals and partially repeated the feat of Kristers Gudlevskis from the Sochi match with Canada. The day after tomorrow he will have to play exactly the same way to finally write Latvian hockey in history.

Arthur Shilov

Photo: Andrea Branca/Getty Images

An opinion could be found that Latvia’s success is somehow related to the fact that Dynamo Riga no longer plays in the KHL. But in recent years, Dinamo has not been what is called a “basic club” in Russia: the main Latvian club used to be represented by 8-9 people, most of whom were defenders. Yes, Dynamo gave a solid part of the team, but they did not provide practically any connection in attack – the best Latvian players represented the Russian KHL clubs.

Of course, such semifinalists will cause the usual scorn: “The level of the World Cup has fallen below the pedestal, nightmare-nightmare!”. But regardless of your attitude towards these teams, such a breakthrough by modest European teams is great for hockey, which, by the nature of the game, lacks success stories (here, unlike football, it is almost impossible put a “bus”). And if there is no Russia at the World Cup, then it is quite possible to be glad for the small and modest.

Puck Henry
Puck Henry
Puck Henry is an editor for ePrimefeed covering all types of news.

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