The day after, the mood of the German national ice hockey team was completely different. "Frustration is a thing of the past," said national coach Harold Kreis. However, only verbally, the 64-year-old did not go on the ice in the training hall down in the basement of the Tampere Arena on Sunday. He left the management to his assistants. They seemed to have struck a chord with the players. That there had been bitter defeats against Sweden (0-1) on Friday and against hosts Finland (3-4) on Saturday at the start of the Ice Hockey World Championship? There was no sign of that at training on Sunday, and there was some hooting and laughing after goals.
Now, one should not make the mistake of confusing this looseness with a lack of seriousness. Yes, the selection of the German Ice Hockey Federation (DEB) had sold dearly against two heavyweights of their sport, but no one flew to Finland for a certificate of participation. "We would have deserved points, that's very bitter," said NHL forward Nico Sturm, knowing full well that it could continue this Monday.
Then it's (15.20 p.m. on Sport 1 and Magentasport) against the Americans, who for their part started with two wins and 11:2 goals. So against the next heavyweight. Even a decent performance might not be enough. Then what was to be feared after the announcement of the schedule would have really happened: that the German team would be without a point after three games and would have to win all of its last four group games in order to reach the quarter-finals.
The leadership of the DEB was aware of this. So she took precautions and took the Munich sports psychologist Tom Kossak with her. "It helps us a lot to be able to talk to him again and again," captain Moritz Müller said on Sunday. There had already been several group meetings before the tournament, and now more in Tampere.
"The mental aspect is one of the biggest parts of sport," says Müller. The national coach, who has been giving lectures on topics such as conflict management or group dynamics for years, is also aware of this. During the sessions with the sports psychologist, however, Kreis is deliberately not in the room. He wants to give his players freedom. Captain Müller agrees: "It's good when he's not there sometimes."
"Then we win"
Alone in the head, with the help of a good attitude, the games are not decided. Tactics board and video study are part of the compulsory program. "Winning is not a dream concert," says Kreis, who enjoyed a lot, but certainly not everything, on the first World Cup weekend. For example, on Saturday "a few situations in the defensive zone" in which the Finns, who rotate again and again, "clearly came to good shooting opportunities".
His players would have focused too much on the puck and would not have seen when someone suddenly came rushing in, who then used the extra shot. Two of Finland's four goals came from extra shots. Goalkeeper Dustin Strahlmeier blamed himself: "I just have to keep one more, then we'll win the game." But it was because of the people in front of him that they didn't clear the rebounds. Against the nimble and powerful Americans, according to the circle, Monday is about "consolidating the defensive zone so that we don't give up the good chances from the slot".
Another problem: the few shots of their own. Now things went much better offensively against Finland than in the goalless opener on Friday, the first of the three goals was "important for the heads", said captain Müller. The overtime game also looked more determined, but in the decisive final third, the Germans had only three shots on goal. Most of the time, they were too inaccurate.
In the first two games, they had only 32 shots on goal. That's what good teams can do in a game. So Kreis is calling for more deals. They don't always have to go straight in, you could also shoot to create a follow-up: "The opposing goaltender is often the best passer on the ice if you use him correctly."
One person who is particularly good at this is Leon Gawanke. He's a defenseman, but he's one of the most powerful shooters in the American Hockey League. Gawanke scored 20 goals this season for the Manitoba Moose. Fortunately for the DEB, however, this is over. So Gawanke arrived in Tampere on Sunday. Whether he will play this Monday, the national coach left open. "We'll have to see how he feels after the trip," said Kreis, who announced changes.
Perhaps more will follow in the tournament, because very prominent reinforcements are still coming: DEB sports director Christian Künast did not want to rule out a subsequent arrival of NHL star Leon Draisaitl, if he had time and his team gave the green light. This is still a long way off. On Monday, the first thing to do against the Americans is to prevent a complete false start.