International Ice Hockey Federation

Schutz: “Nothing to lose”

Schutz: “Nothing to lose”

German forward excited after eliminating Swiss

Published 21.02.2018 19:33 GMT+10 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Schutz: “Nothing to lose”
German forward Felix Schutz speaks after the won qualification playoff game against Switzerland. Photo: Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images
Some things are worth waiting for. At the 1972 Olympics, West Germany beat Switzerland 5-0. Till Tuesday, that was the last German Olympic win over the Swiss.

Felix Schutz, naturally, has no memory of this. He wasn’t born till 1987. But the well-travelled veteran German forward does have a broad international perspective – and at least a little bit of short-term memory, unlike many of his colleagues.

After Yannic Seidenberg’s overtime goal at 0:36 gave the Germans a 2-1 qualification playoff victory over archrival Switzerland, it’s time for another do-or-die game against Sweden. For Schutz, the idea of topping Tre Kronor in Wednesday’s late quarter-final is like assembling IKEA furniture: challenging, but not completely impossible.

“We played Sweden just a couple of days ago,” Schutz said. “We all know that Sweden is a good hockey country, but I’m sure they respect us. I talked to some guys I played with in Russia, and they said we play really good hockey. So we’ve gotta come out and play with confidence. We have nothing to lose, you know.”

Will the German legs be too heavy to keep up with a talented Swedish team that edged them 1-0 on Viktor Stalberg’s early tally on 9 February in the group stage?

“I think that when it comes down to games like this, you play nine months in the regular season,” Schutz said. “Every player plays a lot in their club and the conditioning is fine. I think there is no problem. You should be able to play two games in two nights.”

After amassing a team-leading 18 goals and 26 assists with the DEL’s Kolner Haie this season, Schutz is still seeking his first point in his first Olympics. But the seven-time IIHF World Championship participant knows how to play in all situations against almost any type of European opposition.

Look at Schutz’s pro career: his previous stint with Kolner Haie was in 2012-13. Just in the years since then, the 181-cm, 89-kg Erding native has also suited up for EHC Red Bull Munchen, the KHL’s Admiral Vladivostok, Avangard Omsk, Dinamo Riga, Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod, and Sweden’s Rogle BK. And he knows the more rough-and-tumble North American style from two years in the QMJHL and two more with the AHL’s Portland Pirates.

So when you get around that much, a rematch in Korea with the 2017 World Champions doesn’t faze you much.

Top defenceman Christian Ehrhoff, averaging 21:09 a night through four games, wasn’t fazed either after taking a tough hit from Cody Almond nine seconds into the qualification playoff game that saw the Swiss-Canadian forward ejected with a five-minute major for checking to the head. Ehrhoff, 35, soon returned to the ice, and that fired Schutz up.

“It was big,” Schutz said. “I played with Ehrhoff in the club so I know that he’s not a guy who gives up quick. I was pretty sure that he was coming back and he wants to play. He’s an older guy now and it could be his last Olympics. I was positive he’s coming back. He finished solid.”

“Solid” has generally been the kindest word to describe the German national team over the years. They’re the kind of guys you want to fix your plumbing, chop down your tree, or (maybe) assemble your IKEA furniture. But putting the puck in the net rarely comes easy. Stereotypically, a quarter-final exit is as good as it gets for the Germans, except on certain magical occasions, like the 2010 IIHF World Championship in Cologne and Mannheim, where home-ice advantage spurred Uwe Krupp’s crew to a surprising fourth place.

However, under current head coach Marco Sturm – the highest-scoring German in NHL history and recently signed to a national team extension through 2022 – things are trending in a different direction, according to Schutz. Even though Sturm has also been limited to quarter-final exits at the Worlds (seventh place in 2016 and eighth in 2017), he’s certainly not preaching the kill-the-game approach of, say, the early-2000’s Hans Zach era.

“The thing is that we play more of a system now,” Schutz said. “I think in the years before, I don’t want to say we didn’t play a system, but Marco played a lot of years in the NHL, and now we play offensively. I remember maybe five years ago we’d sit back and play the trap. Now we’re starting to forecheck. We play a good system. I know in the clubs too, Red Bull Munich plays a little bit offensive hockey and you can see. We can play with pressure now.”

But will it be enough? The Germans still haven’t scored more than two goals in a game here in Korea.

In nine all-time Olympic meetings with Germany, Sweden has eight wins and one tie. That deadlock, by the way, was 1-1 in 1956. So the Germans may struggle to assemble that Billy bookcase.

However, who knows what could happen if goalie Danny aus den Birken stands on his head and the Germans throw enough pucks on the Swedish net while also playing tight, physical defence? Schutz takes heart from that previous 1-0 loss, although he’s also realistic and candid.

“I talked to some guys and they said: ‘[Expletive deleted]! You could have won and it would have been fair. You deserved it.’ But it’s a new game, so I’m sure the Swedish guys will put a notch on top of this. So it’ll be even harder for us.”

Still, consider this: Sweden, historically so reliable at the start of the playoffs, has lost three of its last five Olympic quarter-finals (1998, 2002, 2010), and two of its last three World Championship quarter-finals (2015, 2016). And for the Germans, it would be a glorious upset if they could move on and get a shot at their third medal in Olympic history (they won bronze in 1932 and 1976). Some things are worth waiting for.


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