The ice hockey vice world champion presses the reset button. “Now the tournament really begins for us,” said national coach Harold Kreis before the decisive World Cup preliminary round games.

After two bitter 6-1 defeats against the USA and Sweden, the German national team is very disillusioned. The pressure will increase against Latvia on Wednesday (4:20 p.m./ProSieben and MagentaSport), otherwise the minimum goal of the quarter-finals at the World Cup in the Czech Republic is in danger. Germany shouldn’t lose. “We have to score points now,” demanded Kreis.

The current situation is at least superficially similar to last year. In 2023, the DEB selection in Tampere, Finland even started with three defeats. The team then fought its way into the quarter-finals with four wins in a row and only failed in the final against record champions Canada. After all, Germany currently has three points from the 6:4 opening win against Slovakia. “Last year we played better and didn’t have a point. Now we’re not playing so well, but we have three points,” said captain Moritz Müller. “The glass is half full, not half empty,” Kreis added.

World Cup silver as a “backpack”?

There is still a lot to do before the Latvia game. “Everyone has to be honest with themselves now,” demanded veteran Müller. “We play inhibited. We play like we have something to lose.” He now sees the surprising runner-up championship with the resulting expectations as a “backpack”. “We have to strengthen confidence in ourselves. We didn’t do that in the last two games,” said the 37-year-old Kölner Haie professional.

There is no time for a team evening or a team-building activity. The team sat together with the coaches on Monday evening. “We had a short conversation. We also spoke in small groups on Tuesday,” explained the coach. The mood is “significantly better” than after the 6-1 defeat against Sweden on Monday.

Defense is the weak point without NHL ace Seider

The weakness in defense remains noticeable. The defense allowed more than 130 shots in the three World Cup games. “Far too much,” complained Moritz Müller. “We don’t play the game we want to play against such nations.” Berlin’s Jonas Müller added: “We just have to learn to play harder and be closer to the man.”

However, one thing is also certain: compared to last year, there is a lack of quality, especially in defense. The rejection of Moritz Seider from the Detroit Red Wings, the only German defender at world-class level, is extremely difficult. “Of course he’s missing,” said Jonas Müller. Seider could have given the shaky back line more support. Without the NHL professional, scoring goals was made far too easy for the top stars from the Americans and Sweden. “It’s an issue we had. It’s an issue we’re looking at,” Kreis said of the defensive problem.

Nico Sturm is the beacon of hope before the remaining games against Latvia, Kazakhstan, Poland and finally against France. The ailing NHL professional from the San Jose Sharks is expected to return to the squad against third-placed Latvia in the World Cup. The 29-year-old was unable to take part in the two 6-1 defeats and was sorely missed. “Nico trained well on Tuesday,” said Kreis. “We’ll decide on the day of the game whether he’ll be there or not.” The presence of the 2022 Stanley Cup winner on both sides of the ice should help the unsettled team. “It’s good for us,” said Captain Müller.