Germany’s national ice hockey team remains winless at this year’s World Championship despite strong performances in its first three games. The team now faces an uphill struggle to advance beyond the group stage.
German head coach Pat Cortina's men dropped a 3-2 decision to Slovakia in Helsinki on Monday despite having twice held a one-goal lead in the contest.
"We worked hard for the 2-1 lead. Unfortunately we then made a couple of mistakes," Cortina said. "I feel really sorry for the team."
Team captain Christian Ehrhoff gave a similar assessment.
"A couple of mistakes decided things," the Buffalo Sabres' defenseman said after the game in the Hartwall Areena. "Maybe we were a bit out of gas," he added, referring to the fact that it was Germany's second game in the space of 24 hours, while Slovakia had had a day off to rest their aches and pains.
"But we have to keep our chins up, sooner or later the pucks will start to go in," the power play point man said.
Desperately needing a win in their third game of the tournament, the Germans came out flying in the first period and drew first blood, with Michael Wolf deflecting a shot from the point past the Slovak goalie.
Slovakia bounced back in the second, with Mario Bliznak taking advantage of a fat rebound kicked out by German net minder Rob Zepp.
Germany reclaimed the lead early in the third period, when the Slovak goalie got a piece of a Marcus Kink shot but was unable to keep the puck from crossing the line to make the score 2-1.
That goal seemed to rally the Slovaks, who drew level for a second time less than three minutes later on a one-timer from the slot by Tomas Zaborsky.
The game was decided by a blatant goaltending error with just 7:14 remaining in regulation time. Zepp, who had performed brilliantly when Germany earned a single point against Finland on Friday, attempted to dive out of his crease to freeze a loose puck. Somehow the puck bounced out of his mitt and Zaborsky was on the door step to smash it home for a 3-2 final.
Zepp's teammates, though, sought to deflect any criticism from the Berlin Polar Bears net minder.
"We need to clear the rebounds," Frank Hördler, Zepp's Berlin teammate said.
With just one point from its first three games, Germany will likely need to beat the United States on Sunday to reach the knock-out stage. Germany's single point came in Friday's overtime loss to Finland.
Prior to the game against the US they will be looking to collect points against Austria on Wednesday and Latvia on Saturday to avoid finishing among the bottom two overall, which would mean relegation to Division 1 Group A for next year.
pfd/ccp (dpa, SID)