Perhaps the biggest winner at the end of the main round in the German Ice Hockey League is the national team.
Two months before the start of the World Championships in Finland and Latvia, the German Ice Hockey Federation now has planning security and the new national coach Harold Kreis has an easier start. Due to the early end of the season for the Schwenninger Wild Wings, their previous coach Kreis can start his new job at DEB immediately and plan the World Cup preparations.
Schwenningen's ultimately insignificant 4:3 after a penalty shoot-out at champions Eisbären Berlin did not change that. Even a win would not have been enough for the reigning champion. For the first time in 22 years, DEL playoffs will take place without the polar bears and for the first time in 19 years without the current champion. In 2004, the Krefeld Pinguine, as champions, did not make the cut after the main round. "Of course the frustration is very, very big," complained international Marcel Noebels.
Important world championship drivers early on
As bitter as it was for one of the best German strikers after two championships in a row, the new national coach must have been secretly happy about it. Due to the end of the season for the Berliners, Kreis and his club mates Leo Pföderl, Jonas Müller and Marco Nowak are now available from the beginning of the World Cup preparations in Noebels at the beginning of April.
"The polar bear national players have to recover mentally first. But I am convinced that they will be well prepared for our first meeting in early April," said Kreis immediately after the game and already in national coach mode. In recent years, large parts of the final World Cup squads were tied in the playoffs for a long time. District predecessor Toni Söderholm often only had C squads available, especially at the start of the World Cup preparations.
The polar bears are now primarily faced with a number of unpleasant conversations. "It's very, very bitter and frustrating. It wasn't what we had thought at all, and there's nothing to sugarcoat it. It was basically a crisis that lasted seven months," said managing director Thomas Bothstede. "Every stone is turned over."
Coach future open
It is clear that the champion of 2021 and 2022 will make a new attempt in the coming season with a change in personnel. It is unclear whether coach Serge Aubin will continue. "Maybe he has completely different ideas, which I hope not," said Bothstede. The master coach of the past few years himself did not want to comment on the future: "We will sit down together in the next few weeks and see how things go."
In the DEL, the pre-playoffs will start on Tuesday. In a maximum of three games, the quarter-final opponents of main round winner EHC Red Bull Munich and second ERC Ingolstadt will be determined in the series Düsseldorfer EG against newly promoted Löwen Frankfurt and Fischtown Pinguins from Bremerhaven against Nürnberg Ice Tigers.
This is a disappointment, especially for DEG, after some very strong weeks recently. "Of course it's extremely unfortunate that you still fall out of the top six at the finish line," complained sporting director Niki Mondt. In February, DEG was even considered the secret favorite for the title. At the end of the main round, the eight-time champion ran out of breath in the hustle and bustle of the celebrations around the 1000th DEL games of their strikers Alex Barta and Philip Gogulla.
On the last day of the main round, arch-rivals Kölner Haie overtook them. Coach Uwe Krupp's team can now prepare a week longer for the playoff quarterfinals against Adler Mannheim, which starts on March 14th. Only then do the DEL playoffs really begin again with a maximum of seven games per series. With the polar bears, a lot should have been worked up by then.