Eisbaeren Berlin’s seasoned Canadian legionnaire TYSON MULOCK (62) is pursued by Nuremberg Ice Tigers defenseman TIM SCHUELE (27) during the history-making “WINTER GAME” staged outdoors by the Deutsche Eishockey Liga at the old Frankenstadion in the southern German state of Bavaria.
A pair of goals scored roughly seven and a half minutes apart in the middle of the final period and 34 saves from the host netminder allowed streaking THOMAS SABO ICE TIGERS of NUREMBERG to hold off visiting defending champion EISBAEREN BERLIN 4-3 in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga’s inaugural “WINTER GAME”, which was played outdoors under the not-so-clear skies in front of a European record-setting audience of 50,000 spectators.
Although the drizzly precipitation falling from above made playing conditions less than ideal there would be nothing to disrupt the celebratory atmosphere inside the venerable Frankenstadion; the D.E.L. has every intention of establishing the Winter Game as the premier event on the annual regular season calendar and succeeded rather well in bringing off its historic contest at the traditional home of Bundesliga football club 1.FC Nuernberg without a hitch.
Eisbaeren Berlin, who outshot the Nuremberg Ice Tigers 14-9 in the opening period, were unlucky to have winger LAURIN BRAUN hit the outside of the post at the base of the net with his attempt in the 12th minute of play and were destined to fall behind after the first intermission was over when veteran Canadian TYSON MULOCK went to the penalty box for roughing at the 11:43 mark of the second session.
The hosts cashed in on the ensuing power play opportunity via a creative pass on the point by experienced Canadian legionnaire STEVE REINPRECHT, the 36-year-old veteran of 663 NHL games (140 go, 382 pts) who was signed by the Thomas Sabo Ice Tigers of Nuremberg in late September, and a strike by Canadian legionnaire CONNOR JAMES, the 30-year-old former University of Denver center who scored exaclty one goal in 16 NHL games for the Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins previously in his career.
Nuremberg Ice Tigers’ Canadian legionnaire CONNOR JAMES (20), the productive center signed from EG Duesseldorf in the summer, slips the puck (visible between the legs of James just inside the post) past Eisbaeren Berlin netminder ROB ZEPP (72) to score the first-ever outdoor goal in the history of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga at the 12:42 mark of the second period during the inaugural “D.E.L. Winter Game” contested at the sold-out Frankenstadion.
Eisbaeren Berlin, who, once again, outshot the Nuremberg Ice Tigers in the second period (this time by 14-8), were able to level the historic match with just two seconds left in the middle frame, however.
Germany national team defenseman FRANK HOERDLER had been sent off for Eisbaeren late in the second period to leave Berlin shorthanded. But it was a fabulous solo rush and deadly accurate wrist shot by left wing FLORIAN BUSCH, the newly-turned 28-year-old who registered his sixth goal of this 2012/13 D.E.L. campaign in the process, that snapped over the shoulder of Nuremberg Ice Tigers’ Canadian legionnaire netminder TYLER WEIMAN and tucked neatly under the crossbar. And so both sides had everything to play for with just twenty minutes remaining in the inaugural Winter Game, then.
Eisbaeren Berlin left wing FLORIAN BUSCH, to the right of veteran defenseman JENS BAXMANN (29), is acknowledged by relieved teammates at the bench area after equalizing against Nuremberg Ice Tigers with a well-taken shorthanded goal late in the second period of the very first D.E.L. Winter Game at the old Frankenstadion in Bavaria.
In stark contrast to the first forty minutes of play which had seen just two goals scored under the open skies at the sold-out Frankenstadion, the first 6:19 of the third and final period began at a frantic pace with a total of three pucks finding their way into the back of the net.
It was veteran Canadian legionnaire ERIC CHOUINARD, the former first round NHL draft pick (1998, # 16 overall) of the Montreal Canadiens who later skated 90 NHL games (11 go, 22 pts) for the Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers as well as the Minnesota Wild, who initiated this scoring spree with an excellent pass out from behind the net to the open man at the point; it is also, of course, the skilled 32-year-old veteran Chouinard, who has been skating in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga since bolting the Swiss Nationalliga B side HC Sierre for Straubing Tigers early into the 2006/07 season, that leads Nuremberg Ice Tigers with 32 points (nine goals) in the D.E.L. this season.
Nuremberg Ice Tigers defenseman TIM SCHUELE (27), the 22-year-old former Germany youth international, scored his fifth goal of this D.E.L. season with a wrist shot from the right face-off circle two minutes and five seconds into the third period of the inauguarl D.E.L. Winter Game opposite Eisbaeren Berlin at the Frankenstadion in Bavaria; the strike marked a third in as many matches for the young rearguard with all five of Schuele’s goals this season having come after the new Swedish trainer Bengt-Ake Gustafsson was hired in early December of 2012 after Canadian bench boss JEFF TOMLINSON, the former Eisbaeren Berlin center who was in charge at EG Duesseldorf last season, had been let go.
Eisbaeren Berlin captain ANDRE RANKEL (24), the 27-year-old left wing who leads the German capital city club with 38 points in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga this term, scored his 13th goal of this D.E.L. season just 27 seconds after host Nuremberg Ice Tigers had gone back out in front to start the third period of the historic Winter Game at the sold-out Frankenstadion.
Wearing the captain’s “C” on his sweater for the match that reportedly had a double-decker bus worth of his relatives in attendance, Germany national team winger PATRICK REIMER receives congratulations from teammates after scoring his team-leading 14th goal of this D.E.L. season to give Nuremberg Ice Tigers the lead against Eisbaeren Berlin that would never relinquish at the 6:19 mark of the third period in the first-ever D.E.L. Winter Game at the venerable Frankenstadion in Bavaria.
The pivotal moment of the match came when Nuremberg Ice Tigers right wing PATRICK REIMER, the 30-year-old who represented Germany at the last two annual IIHF World Championships (14 ga, 5 go, 8 pts) before transferring to the Bavarian club from EG Duesseldorf this past summer, shot the puck from behind the goal line. Somehow, perhaps inexcusably so, the little black disc was permitted to squeeze between the post and the pads of Eisbaeren Berlin’s Germany national team netminder ROB ZEPP. This time, though, the visitors would not be able to find their way back at the Frankenstadion.
Nuremberg Ice Tigers added a crucial insurance goal at the 13:47 mark of the third period, as well. Once again it was the decorated Reinprecht — who has accomplished the unique hat trick of an NCAA title with the University of Wisconsin in 1998, a Stanley Cup championship with the Colorado Avalanche in 2001 in addition to a gold medal for Canada at the 2003 IIHF World Championship — at the heart of it all for the hosts with a centering pass for fellow Canadian legionnaire JASON JASPERS in the slot. A blistering one-timer from the 31-year-old center, the former third round choice (# 71 overall) of the Phoenix Coyotes at the 1999 National Hockey League Draft who switched to Nuremberg Ice Tigers from Koelner Haie this past summer, banked in off the post and provided the home side with a daunting 4-2 lead this very first D.E.L. Winter Game.
A desperate Eisbaeren Berlin, who ended up outshooting their hosts 37-27 for the entire contest, exchanged the goaltender Zepp for a sixth attacker late in the game and did manage to draw within 4-3. Germany’s 2010 Olympic veteran T.J. MULOCK jammed the puck under the pads of Nuremberg Ice Tigers’ Canadian legionnaire netminder TYLER WEIMAN, who then swept the little black disc over the goal line and back again with his leg only to be caught by the match referees using video replay. Mulock’s 13th strike of the season in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga for Eisbaeren at the 19:13 mark of the third period gave the visitors a glimmer of hope but only for a very brief while.
This because Weiman, the 28-year-old who had made one appearance in the National Hockey League for the Colorado Avalanche during the 2007/08 campaign and originally signed on to guard the nets in the German top flight with Augsburg Panthers after leaving the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League in the summer of 2011, was not to be beaten by the the visiting Eisbaeren again.
With the victory in the first-ever D.E.L. Winter Game, the Thomas Sabo Ice Tigers of Nuremberg stormed to a seventh win in eight D.E.L. contests since Swedish trainer BENGT-AKE GUSTAFSSON, the former NHL forward who steered Tre Kronor to the Olympic gold medal at the 2006 Winter Games in Italy, was brought on board in early December.
Understrength Eisbaeren Berlin, on the other hand, lost for a third consecutive time in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga and must now undergo the long trip north for the next day’s D.E.L. contest with the Hannover Scorpions in Lower Saxony.