Banners On The Road – Eisbären Berlin vs Adler Mannheim 10/1/14

Deutsche Eishockey Liga

Eisbären Berlin 3-2 Adler Mannheim

Weiß                       Hecht

Christensen            El-Sayed

Hördler

 

Eisbären Berlin take on Adler Mannheim at the O2 World in Berlin (c) Banners On The Wall

Eisbären Berlin take on Adler Mannheim at the O2 World in Berlin
(c) Banners On The Wall

The game: The O2 World in Berlin seems to rise into the skyline as if out of nowhere. The car we’re in suddenly turns a corner and there it is; this giant blue and white rounded building lit up with people already walking towards it. After paying 7€ for a parking space and having a quick beer in the car park (it’s Germany after all, people can and will drink anywhere) we headed inside.

The arena itself is impressive; the fan shop had an array of stuff for both Alba Berlin, the city’s top flight basketball team as well as the Eisbären. The night I was there all the merchandise from the recent Red Bulls Salute (the final of the European Trophy) was half price so that was my jersey sorted but there was an insane amount of stuff on sale from books to scarves to an Eisbären Berlin branded fridge, yours for just 700€.

There’s a crazy amount of food and drinks dispensers around the place for beer and burgers and pretzels and all else in between. All the drinks come in “deposit cups”. The idea being that you pay an extra Euro for your drink; you take the cup back and you get your Euro back and if you want to keep the cup then you keep the cup.

Our seats were in Block 203, a block reserved for tickets got through an offer with German bank DKB for the pricey sum of 15€. That’s right, 12 about the price of an EPL ticket and we got a great view of the action from the lower tier of the arena.

Walking out into the arena itself the sheer scale of the place is instantly apparent. The block we are sitting in is opposite the famous Fan Kurve; the all standing section where the members of the numerous officially recognised fan clubs stand. They cheer and shout and wave flags and banners throughout the entirety of the night’s entertainment. As you can imagine from the name, it feels very similar on the inside to the O2 in London but the near constant singing and chanting give it that old European sports atmosphere.

After the entrance of the hosts that featured one large and one small dancing polar bear, fireworks and the players entering through the mouth of a giant polar bear we were greeted with the evening’s hockey action. Berlin were still without starting netminder Rob Zepp due to a broken rib, captain Andre Rankel and a host of regular players. The hosts started regular backup netminder Sebastian Elwing. The visitors from Mannheim started German international Denis Endras and were at close to full strength.

The home side’s recent form going into this game had not been brilliant, a 3-0 loss in Hamburg the previous Tuesday the latest result but they came out of the gate flying, instantly putting the guests on the back foot. An early penalty to Ronny Arendt sent the Eisbären to the powerplay but despite some decent movement there was no way past Endras.

Die Adler adapted by letting Berlin come at them and to try and attempt to hit on the counter attack whilst keeping their hosts’ attacks largely fruitless. Berlin were attacking with energy but it seemed little purpose, they were having the balance of play but with minimal end product.

Berlin had another penalty chance when Michael Vernace was called for tripping but their ultra attacking style was quickly undone just after the penalty expired. With the entire Eisbären line playing high, a misplaced pass sent Jochen Hecht away alone on Elwing and the former Buffalo Sabres forward moved the puck to his backhand and slotted it into the net for the 1-0 at 12:47.

The period continued on that point much along the same theme; Berlin attacking with energy but little direction and Mannheim trying to hit on the counter up to the point where the first period ended. The feeling was that the game would go one of two ways; either Berlin equalise and the game became tight and scrappy or Mannheim score again and the game became a rout.

The second period continued the theme of the first. The hosts, unperturbed by being a goal down and an early hooking penalty to Frank Hördler, stuck to their game plan and kept going at Mannheim. It was very similar to watching the Bison or (insert your team name here, they all do it) at their most frustrating; chance after chance but just never seeming to find a way to get the puck over the line.

Eventually and to the relief of most of the people in the building, the dam finally broke. Another Berlin attack saw a mass scramble in front of Endras’ net. Matt Foy shovelled the puck goalwards where eventually it was stuffed over the line by Daniel Weiß at 28:56 to tie the score at 1-1.

Die Eisbären could smell blood and continued to press on with attacking and started to look a little more potent when going forward but Mannheim were remaining composed. They’d managed to strike and break Berlin once and seemed confident of doing it again but the rest of the second period passed off without much in the way of incident. There were a few tight chances but it was pretty run of the mill hockey and 1-1 was a totally fair scoreline after two periods.

The third period started with a bit of a bang compared to the rest of the game. The Berlin top line combined as the puck went from Foy to Laurin Braun and finally to Danish forward Mads Christensen who shot past Endras at 42:15 to give the hosts something of a deserved lead. Sadly the Eisbären defence immediately switched off and a turnover in their own zone meant the lead lasted 24 seconds as Marc El-Sayed was on hand to lash the puck past Elwing to tie the score at 2-2.

The response from die Adler seemed to spur the hosts on but Mannheim too seemed to sense that this game might be theirs for the taking. The period was a much more even affair and at the time it felt like that the scorer of the next goal would win it.

The crucial moment came just after the half way mark of the final period; with Berlin on the attack, the line of Mark Bell, Jonas Schlenker and TJ Mulock were set up in the zone. Mulock found Schlenker who fed the puck into the slot to find Frank Hördler in stride who blasted a shot past Endras at 51:03 to give the hosts the lead back.

This spurred Mannheim to life; they needed to find a way to score of risk leaving the Hauptstadt empty handed but Elwing was equal to the task. Endras was pulled for the extra attacker with just over a minute to go but there was nothing that could be done. Resolute Eisbären defence saw the hosts reach the final buzzer in front and the 12,800 fans inside the O2 World celebrated the 3-2 win in style.

 

The hosts celebrate their important league win with netminder Sebastian Elwing (c) Banners On The World

The hosts celebrate their important league win with netminder Sebastian Elwing
(c) Banners On The World

Die Eisbären: With so many key elements of the roster missing, this was a real team effort that got Berlin over the line. It was a triumph of hard work over planning; at times, particularly in the first and second periods, Berlin appeared to be over thinking things. They would hit the blueline on the attack then get into the zone and seem utterly clueless as to what to do with the puck. When die Eisbären went back to basics, they were much more threatening. It was solid if unspectacular play that won Berlin the game as their superior work rate won then the day.

With Rob Zepp still injured and a playoff spot still very much in the balance, the performance of Sebastian Elwing had to please coach Jeff Tomlinson and the faithful fans. Elwing will probably have wanted both goals back but was solid at the death with Mannheim throwing the kitchen sink at them and as it’s unknown how long Zepp will be injured, solid performances from the Berlin born backup are a necessity.

It’s hard to pick any one player outskater wise who stood out but the team performance is what will please Jeff Tomlinson from this one. With the champions looking on the rocks at times this season, wins against quality opposition can only help boost morale and the belief that Berlin can regain the title as well as the wins column.

 

Die Adler: It wasn’t a great game from a Mannheim perspective; heavily outshot, on the back foot for most of proceedings but when they stepped up their game they could score yet didn’t find a way to do that consistently for 60 minutes.

Keepers of Denis Endras’ quality will keep any sides in games. He made a variety of top quality saves from the offensive dominance that they faced from Berlin. If Mannheim get themselves into a run of form in time for the post season then Endras will be a big reason that Mannheim will go a long way. He has the ability to win games on his own.

Jochen Hecht took his goal very well, almost effortlessly coasting up ice and befuddling Elwing to pot the puck into the net but otherwise huffed and puffed with minimal success.

The Mannheim 4th line of Ronny Arendt, Mirko Höfflin and goal scorer Marc El-Sayed were industrious and hard working, rightly rewarded in some ways with El-Sayed’s goal for their efforts.

Overall this is a game that new Adler coach Hans Zach and the team will have put to one side and moved onto the next time. Sometimes they happen but they can’t dwell on the missed chances that they had in this game.

 

Overall: The game itself was not really the best spectacle. I’ve arguably watched better games of hockey, more exciting games, certainly games with more on the line but boy, what a spectacle the whole thing was.

Now I realise that this might sound like me over-egging the pudding a bit here; I’m a well known fan of all things Germany and here I am in arguably the premier venues for ice hockey in the country. This isn’t hyperbole; it’s amazing and you need to add this place to your hockey bucket list.

Aside from the atmosphere this is quality hockey at an affordable price in one of the great cities of the world. The DEL is something that is, thanks to the internet is available to most of you who are reading it so definitely check it out as and when you can.

The right team won the game because the team that worked hardest won at the end of the day but in some ways the result was almost secondary for the 6 of us that went to this game; this was about getting to experience what going to an Eisbären game was all about. My German friends who grew up in the former East Germany and had been to the old Wellblechpalast got to see the DEL club that many East German hockey fans consider “their team” (certainly my Rostock ice hockey friends are always keeping tabs on Berlin over Hamburg which is at least an hour nearer). For me, it was just about enjoying a new experience as a hockey fan, one that I really recommend that you try.

"If we stay really still then maybe they won't notice us..."

“If we stay really still then maybe they won’t notice us…”

IMAG0804

A nice addition to the collection. Well, when in Rome

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