Sunday, 12 August 2018

Great Start In Germany

It's just about time to swing into hockey season over in Europe, and one German team will have my eyes on it all season long! The Krefeld Pinguine took to the ice today in a friendly exhibition match against Cologne with a new head coach in Brandon Reid behind the bench and some new recruits to the team under his guidance. Krefeld wasn't a great team last season as they finished 14th out of 14 teams, so there was some hope that the new coach and the new players brought to the Pinguine may change the team's fortunes. If their season is anything like today's result, I think the move to bring Brandon to Krefeld will prove to be rather genius!

For a team that won just 11 games while scoring 141 goals in 52 contests last season, today saw the Penguine score 5% of their total goal output from last season today! The Pinguine downed the Kölner Haie, better known in English as the Cologne Sharks, by a 7-4 score! It was a game that saw lots of special teams work on both sides of the puck, but the Pinguine appear to be headed in the right direction with today's result.

Before I start planning a parade route through Krefeld, I know it's only one meaningless exhibition game at this point. But let's be honest here when we're talking about an eleven-win team that any victories this early in the season over a superior opponent should excite the masses of Pinguine fans. Some of the new guys scored. Some of the returning players scored. And at the final horn, the Pinguine, who were 1-1 against the sixth-best DEL team last season, scored seven goals on a team that didn't surrender seven goals in one game all last season. Again, no one is booking town square for a DEL Championship celebration just yet, but it's something to build from when one considers just how poorly last season went for the Pinguine.

Brandon went back to his coaching roots and brought over a few players who found success in the Metal Ligaen in Denmark, and these players made an impact today. Phillip Bruggisser, who played for the Esbjerg Energy last season in Denmark, scored a power-play goal just three minutes into the game and assisted on a second-power-play goal at the six-minute mark. Kirill Kabanov, who played for Brandon with Aalborg last season, also assisted on the power-play goal at the sixth minute, and Martin Lefebvre, who was a Pirate last season after spending time at UQTR, assisted on the Pinguine goal at the 30th minute and added one of his own at the 32-minute mark. Being able to recruit and sign players from the Metal Ligaen where Brandon has had some great looks at good players appears to be a wise move on Krefeld's part.

As stated above, Krefeld got on the board early - a signature move by teams coached by Reid - as Bruggisser made Cologne pay on the power-play with his shot to the far corner of the net off a rebound from a Jordan Caron shot put the Pinguine up 1-0 just three minutes into the game. They'd take advantage of another power-play opportunity three minutes later when long-time Pinguine Daniel Pietta found the back of the net off a Bruggisser pass to put the visitors up 2-0. The Sharks would battle back, though, when former Pinguine Pascal Zerressen's shot found its way through a crowd in front of Krefeld netminder Dimitri Pätzold and elude the goalie to make it 2-1 in the tenth minute. Three minutes after that, the Sharks would use a power-play of their own to tie the game when Steve Pinizzotto deflected a point shot past Pätzold to make it 2-2!

And then everything stopped as the fire alarm at Kölnarena 2 went off! After a short delay, the teams and fans were able to return to the rink to continue this contest, but it isn't often that a period ends with a fire alarm sounding. I've seen teams catch fire metaphorically or play fire-wagon hockey colloquially, but rarely does one ever hear a fire alarm go off during a game!

In the 30th minute, Greger Hanson pulled away from the crowd of players, skated in alone, and went high on netminder Gustaf Wesslau to put the Pinguine out in front by a 3-2 score. With the game being an exhibition game, Cologne decided to make a goaltending change as Hannibal Weitzmann replaced Wesslau in the 31st minute. Two minutes and two shots later, Martin Lefebvre converted a gorgeous pass from Pietta into a goal on Weitzmann's third shot he faced, and Krefeld was up 4-2. It didn't end there for the Sharks, though, as the Pinguine would get one more goal while on the power-play in the 38th minute. James Bettauer ripped a shot past Weitzmann, and his power-play marker would send the Pinguine to the locker room up 5-2!

As a footnote to the above paragraph, Swedish-born Greger Hanson is an absolutely fascinating case of player moves. He spent four years at Northern Michigan University in the NCAA from 2007-11 before embarking on a professional hockey career that has seen him play for 15 teams in five leagues over the last seven seasons. In 2013-14, Hanson played in the Central Hockey League with both the Wichita Thunder and Allen Americans along with a four-game stint in the ECHL with the Greenville Road Warriors. In 2014-15, he suited up for both the Cincinnati Cyclones and the Americans in the ECHL after the ECHL absorbed the CHL teams before jumping to the AHL to play with the Oklahoma City Barons and the Worcester Sharks. 2015-16 saw him back in Allen before call-ups to the AHL's San Jose Barracuda and Utica Comets. 2016-17 had Hanson mostly in Allen, but he had cups of coffee with four AHL teams in the San Diego Gulls, the Chicago Wolves, the Binghamton Senators, and the Charlotte Checkers. Last season saw Hanson start in Utah with the Grizzlies before a brief stint with the San Diego Gulls before finally packing his bags, flying to Krefeld, and ending the season with the Pinguine. Have bags, will travel? It seems to be a nomadic life for Greger Hanson over the last few years.

Footnotes aside, the Cologne Sharks needed to find some goals quickly, and they got an early one from their sniper. Steve Pinizzotto struck again on the power-play as he cashed in a rebound off a Tobias Viklund shot to cut the lead to 5-3 in the 46th minute. With the goaltender out and the extra attacked on to make it 6-on-4 advantage in the 57th minute, Cologne pulled within one goal when Jason Akeson found the back of the net to make it 5-4. Cologne would continue to press, but the final minute saw Patrick Seifert score into the unguarded cage to make it 6-4. After a skirmish which resulted in another Krefeld power-play, Chad Costello put another puck into the empty net for the power-play goal with seconds to play to give the Krefeld Pinguine the 7-4 final!

The Pinguine will have a week to reflect on their efforts and to correct any mistakes that Coach Reid may have seen before they battle the Iserlohn Rooster on Friday. There will be occasional updates on HBIC and The Hockey Show all season long on the Pinguine, so make sure you find these places if you're trying to keep up with Brandon Reid's new team!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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