December 30, 2013
With no Leon Draisaitl but newfound disziplin, Germany scored its first world junior championship win over the Czech Republic and created chaos in Group A.
A plurality of Canadian fans might have been left agape the juxtaposition of results. Germany, with only 16 skaters in uniform and dragging a 4-24 goal differential, prevailed 3-0 over a Czech team that beat Canada 5-4 in a shootout on Saturday.
Chalk it up to the unpredictability of junior hockey. Germany, whose last round-robin win in top-flight play was over Kazakhstan at the 2009 tourney in Ottawa, got 40 saves from 19-year-old Shawinigan Cataractes goalie Marvin Cüpper, including two breakaway saves. It also took only four minor penalties after self-destructing on Sunday against Team USA with a string of frustration penalties.
With the win, Germany (1-0-0-3) moves ahead of the Czechs (0-1-0-2) for the final knockout-stage berth in the group. It means the Czechs must beat Slovakia on Tuesday to avoid the relegation round.
With Draisaitl suspended for the game due to a checking-from-behind major/game misconduct against the Americans, 18-year-olds Frederik Tiffels (2G-1A) of the USHL's Cedar Rapids RoughRiders and Dominik Kahun (1G-1A) of the OHL's Sudbury Wolves commandeered the offensive leadership.
Tiffels, a Western Michigan University recruit, scored the icebreaker goal 14:25 into the contest.
The Czechs began to regain the emotion that had characterized their win over Canada in the second, but late in the frame, Cüpper turned back Dallas Stars first-rounder Radek Faksa on a breakaway. On an ensuing German dump-in, the Czechs got lazy breaking out of their zone. Tiffels stole the puck and centred to Kahun for the 2-0 goal.
It took all of 2½ minutes before Tiffels struck again on a power play, backing up a Czech defender with a speedy burst over the blueline and wiring a shot over the left pad of Phoenix Coyotes-drafted goalie Marek Langhamer.
The Czechs failed to score against a team that had allowed seven, nine and eight goals in each of its first three games.
Germany had the word disziplin written in marker on the glass behind its bench, alluding to not only the imperative to stay out of the box, but to its need to work smart with a short bench. Cüpper deservedly copped player of the game honours, but his defence corps played an inspired game, with 6-foot-3, 220-pound Thomas Botzenhardt doing excellent work to box out Czech forwards around the goal. The London Knights' Tim Bender also had a strong game, chipping in an assist.
Win for new format
The win might also validate the IIHF's decision to only relegate the last-place team from the world junior rather than demoting the bottom two finishers. Germany, under the former format, regularly shuffled between winning promotion and then promptly being demoted the following season, making it difficult to get traction at the top level. It stayed up for 2014 by winning its final relegation-round game against Lativa.
Now coach Ernst Hofner's team, if it gets help from Slovakia on Tuesday afternoon, would be an unlikely quarter-finalist, with Draisaitl back in the lineup. While it's not a salve for all the issues facing developmental hockey in the country, it makes their tournament. Thirteen players on the roster are also young enough to compete at the 2015 tournament in Montreal and Toronto.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.