The Germans head into this tournament sitting fifth in the IIHF World Rankings. And while they have no illusions about coming out on top, they’re looking to improve their all-time record of six wins, 23 losses, and two ties from past IIHF World Championships. Their previous best finishes include fifth place at the 20 Worlds, as well as last year’s Olympics. Do they have what it takes to edge out Switzerland in the Preliminary Round and avoid the agonies of relegation play? You’d think so, but international women’s hockey can be very unpredictable once you get past the top four teams.
Coaching: Peter Kathan is back behind the bench as head coach for the fourth consecutive year, which equals the reign of his predecessor Rainer Nittel (1999-2002). A former player and coach for German clubs like EC Bad Tolz and ESV Kaufbeuren, Kathan has also made an impact through his son Klaus, who regularly suits up for the men’s national team. Kathan is well aware that playing a rigorous defensive game is the only way his team will put up some points in Winnipeg.
Goal: Germany will play without its starting goalie from the 2005 IIHF World Women’s Championship, Stephanie Wartosch-Kurten. This time, the load will fall on the shoulders of 20-year-old Jennifer Harss, who split duties with Wartosch-Kurten in Turin. Her best performance there came in a 1-0 shootout victory over Russia that gave Germany fifth place, as she did not surrender a single goal on four Russian attempts. Netminder Viona Harrer, who saw limited action and posted a cumulative 7.84 GAA at the 20 Worlds, is back after not taking part in the Olympics.
Defence: Christina Fellner (previously Oswald) is the oldest player on the team at age 33, and provides the backbone for Germany’s defence. It’s a role she’s filled since first joining the team in 1990. When the no-nonsense product of Garmisch-Partenkirchen isn’t providing leadership for the national team, she captains the SC Riessersee women’s hockey team. Fellner and fellow veteran Claudia Grundmann will need to show the way for young blueliners like Jenny Tamas (17) and Carina Spuhler (16), the latter making her debut in IIHF competition.
Forward: Maritta Becker’s been here before. At 26, she’s one of the more experienced players on the team and really helps to set the tone. Becker topped the team scoring derby at the 2006 Olympic Games with three goals and two assists, and is looking to add a few more to her career totals in her sixth IIHF World Women’s Championship. Power forward Michaela Lanzl tallied four points in Turin and also represents a scoring threat. The 24-year-old most recently helped take her college team (University of Minnesota-Duluth) to the 2007 NCAA Frozen Four final. Rounding out Germany’s best is Nikola Holmes, a 5-10, 152-pound forward who’s new to the IIHF Worlds. But the Los Angeles-born Princeton graduate (the daughter of a Bavarian mother) isn’t new to international hockey. She was last spotted putting in a solid performance at the Olympics and plays for OSC Berlin.
Projected Results: Being in the same Preliminary Round group as Canada, the Germans have a tough draw. Their first test comes Wednesday against Switzerland. In Turin, they knocked off the Swiss 2-1. The Germans will need to keep up the momentum from their 4-2 exhibition win against China on March 31 to beat Switzerland and get a chance to move up in the standings.