Germany eked out a 2-0 win over rivals Austria on the ice in Helsinki at the World Championships. German hopes stay slim despite the shot in the arm, but it was at least revenge for February Olympic heartbreak.
The German national team did not produce its best hockey against Austria but secured its first win of a difficult tournament in the Finnish capital.
Markus Fink was credited with both German goals in a nervy 2-0 win on Wednesday, with the match remaining tense all the way to the close. Fink's first came late in the second period, and his second - with eight seconds left on the game clock - never actually found the net. Already a man up with a power play, Austria had pulled its goaltender to gain a 6-4 advantage in skaters. But on the breakaway, Fink tried to shoot at the deserted Austrian net and was slashed in the process. Germany was automatically awarded a goal as a result.
Having recorded a 4-3 overtime loss against the tournament co-hosts Finland, followed by a 4-1 defeat to Russia and a tight 3-2 loss against Slovakia, the German team went into the game under the gun and out for revenge.
Austria in February held on against the Germans to lose 3-2 only after overtime. This partial victory in the Olympic qualifier was not enough to secure Germany a place at the Socchi Winter Olympics - they needed all the points from a regulation-time victory.
The game wound down with Germany outnumbered after a power play and extra man gave Austria a six-to-four advantage. But the Germans held on for the win thanks in part to the strong play of goalie Rob Zepp.
"Zepp played a fantastic game," captain and Buffalo Sabres defenseman Christian Ehrhoff said after the tight win. "He was outstanding today," coach Pat Cortina concurred. Zepp had faced some criticism after Germany's 3-2 defeat against Slovakia, when he spilled the puck and allowed Tomas Zaborsky to poach the winning goal.
"What really matters tonight is the three points," the Berlin Polar Bears goaltender said. "We finally played a shutout and had that sliver of luck you need in a game like this."
The man of the match award, however, went to the game's only scorer Fink, whose opening goal was an impressive solo effort.
The win moves Germany up to fifth position in Group B, with four points so far. They will need a top-four finish to qualify for the quarterfinals and face a difficult weekend. Saturday's game against rock-bottom Latvia, yet to score a point, would seem winnable, but less than 20 hours later Cortina's team will suit up again to face the US.
Germany's final group match is against France on Tuesday. The win against Austria also helps the German prospects of avoiding an ignominious last-place finish, which would mean relegation to Division 1 Group A for next year.
msh/dr (dpa, SID)