Quo Vadis, Red Bull München?
Ten games into the 2013/14 DEL ice hockey season, Red Bull Munich find themselves mid-table after five wins and five losses. As a team that has changed practically everything during the off-season, including all but six players from the past season, most expected for them to take some time to find their pace as a playing unit. So far, it has been a constant up and down for the Red Bulls with convincing victories followed by devastating losses and vice versa.
Coming off the back of a six-point weekend with wins over arch rivals Augsburg (5:2) and Krefeld (4:2), Munich travelled to Mannheim on Friday only to fall to the Eagles 9:0. It was the highest loss any Munich team has ever recorded in DEL history. A heated fan discussion erupted across various digital commuication platforms after Friday night’s record loss about the team’s current performance, setup, as well as what appears to be a lack of trust in current head coach Pierre Pagé, not to mention his (in)ability to form a winning championship team.
Tonight, the Red Bulls returned to home ice to host second-ranked Kölner Haie (Sharks) in front of 3,129 faithful fans. Talking to fans on the subway on my way to the rink, it was clear they expected nothing but a fully dedicated and fighting team following Friday night’s embarrassment in Mannheim.
Both teams started a little shaky with plenty of passes across the ice not finding their respective target, and only a few shots on goal were fired at either end. A lack of concentration appeared to be a factor in tonight’s game, with the Red Bulls picking up two minors for too many players on the ice throughout the game.
Cologne showed great focus and effective powerplay, finding their rhythm halfway through the opening period and creating scoring opportunities. They were denied by J. Reimer in goal for the Red Bulls. Munich did not have much to say in the opening twenty minutes.
Following a scoreless opening third, it was the Sharks that took a 1:0 lead with Minard setting up Falk at the slot who did not have any issues in burying the puck into the net from close range. The Red Bulls once again were slack in defense with players not marking their opponents. Halfway through the game, Cologne’s Ticar added salt to Munich’s wounds, scoring from close range to give the visitors a comfortable two-goal lead going into the 2nd intermission. It was once again a lacklustre defensive display with players standing by and watching their opponents make the most of their scoring opportunities. The Red Bulls were outplayed in every aspect of the game in the opening stages, and the fans showed little sympathy, calling on the team to “put up a fight” while also celebrating their former head coach Pat Cortina (who has taken over as German National team head coach, who was watching from the stands.
Trailing by two going into the final period, Munich finally created some scoring opportunities of their own early in the period, increasing the pressure on the visitors. At last they seemed to have realised that they were running out of time to save three additional championship points from the jaws of defeat. Unfortunately, it did not take long for Cologne to respond to the pressure, thus continuing their aggressive forecheck play. In the 51st minute, Ohmann put the final nail into the Red Bull coffin, making it 3:0 and sealing the deal for the visitors.
“Without Reimer in goal, tonight’s encounter may have ended up as much a disaster as Friday night in Mannheim,” said Red Bulls head coach Pagé following the game. “We were outplayed tonight and Cologne deserved to win. A point and goalless weekend (0:12) is clearly not what we wanted,” Pagé added in resignation.
Reimer even saved a penalty shot with only a few minutes left in the game. Of course, the fans stood side by side with their hero who has been outstanding in recent seasons, while the rest of the team copped quite some flack from their supporters. At the other end, former Hannover Scorpions and German National goalkeeper Youri Ziffzer displayed some great saves in goal for Cologne and crowned his performance with a well-derserving shut out.
While Cologne keep in (23 points) touch with runaway leaders Nürnberg Ice Tigers (29 points), Red Bull Munich dropped to 8th in the standings, 9 points adrift of the Sharks.
Munich will now travel to Iserlohn to face the Roosters (9th) on Friday before returning to home ice on Sunday afternoon against bottom-of-the-table Eisbären Berlin. Sunday’s game against Berlin, which will also be televised live by ServusTV, will face off at 5.45pm.
The question that remains is “Where to next, Red Bull Munich?”
Join the discussion and let us know what you think about the team’s recent performances via twitter #lovethegame (@philthyphilba)