Right after the Women’s World Championship 2017 found it’s end I was contacted by Jaclyn Hawkins asking if there is any chance I would write a blog about our time in Plymouth. So here I am, trying to find the right words in a foreign language. Be gentle with me if something sounds strange to you or is spelled the wrong way ;-).
In February, we suffered our toughest loss in the last 3 season and probably as well for the next 3 season. Falling 3-1 against Japan in the final game means we are not going to be part of the 2018 Olympics. Boom. Silence. No one who has ever been a part of something like this knows the feeling of falling with no escape. The sentence I heard the most after this tournament: "Life goes on". Sure, everybody on our team knew that. But for weeks it didn’t feel that way.
When we met for our Worlds pre-camp 5 weeks later, we had a team meeting discussing how we are going to go into the tournament in Plymouth, Michigan. A solution was found really quick and clear – giving up is not an option for us. We want to play our best hockey possible.
Three days later our journey began, which meant travelling for almost 20 hours and a lot of bags. We held our pre-camp in Ann Arbour which included 6 practices and our last game against Sweden (we lost 3:2 after shootout). On our second day in the US we also had the chance to visit the Detroit-Minnesota game. Pretty cool for us as we usually only get to watch the highlights of the NHL.
We were not lucky with our hotel though. Two days after we arrived someone stole 2 phones, cash and a passport out of one of our rooms. Pretty though being over 8,000km away from home and someone steals one of your most private things and you get a weird feeling every time you enter your own hotel room. Unfortunately, either the hotel staff nor the police seem to care about it. Maybe that’s different to Germany because here the hotel would have had to pay for the stolen items. When someone called a few days later and told us that she bought both phones on the internet everything seemed like a happy end. But the women never showed up or answered a call or message. So, flying home after 2 weeks with a lot of memories but still missing two phones, cash and a passport.
But back to hockey: Wednesday was moving day and we finally moved to the tournaments rink. Playing in a top-division tournament is a lot different compared to a Division 1 tournament. By saying that I don’t mean the games itself but all the stuff around. Playing in a World Championship in the US or Canada is outstanding. Once you walk into the rink the tournament logo was everywhere you looked. And, it gets your fire burning. Luckily, we had an awesome locker room as well. We heard from other teams that theirs was pretty small and they were not really happy with it. So, we decided to keep the little secret that the Germans – the freshly promoted team – got a pretty cool one!
Picture day and three more practices later it was finally gameday.
In our first game, we played the Swedes. A team we just beat for the first time in almost 10 years on home ice in January. We knew they have a pretty strong team, but luckily, we had a strong second period and earned a win in the opening game. On the second gameday we faced the Czechs who had lost their first game after shootout against Team Switzerland. And we have to be honest – they were giving us a pretty hard time. But thanks to another strong goalie performance they couldn’t take advantage of having way more shots. Two games, two wins – on to the quarterfinals!
In our last round robin game, we faced Switzerland. They played a great 1st period, while we were still in the locker room. In minute 55 we made it back in the game scoring our second goal to make it 3-2. An empty net goal for the Swiss and we lost our first game.
Maybe it was the right wake up call for us but there wasn’t too much time – quarterfinal game was just around the corner.
This game was fun. I think as a team it was the best game we ever played. Right in the morning there was a different atmosphere. Everybody was really focused and seemed to be ready. We knew we could only win because the pressure was all on Russia. When we came to the rink the video camera was ready to film the underdogs exit the bus, join us for warm ups and in the locker room. Not quite similar to our normal league games at home!
They opened the scoring just 2 minutes into the game. But we bounced back in the second and took the lead in the third. With a great teamwork and a little help from the goal post – history was made. A German women’s team never made it to the semifinals, never did the promoted team. That’s when the American Media gave us the name: Cinderella.
We knew what to expect from the US girls. But still there was just one thing in our minds: Go out and try to play the best hockey possible. Oh, hold on. Maybe there was another thing: Soak it all in because you never know if you get this chance again. To play in the semifinal-game against the host nation who just reached a big success by speaking up for themselves and future girls.
We lost the semifinal as well as the Bronze medal game. Both teams were giving us a hard time and we had nothing to answer with. But one thing we always say in our locker room: "We never stop playing before the game isn’t over". Even though it was obvious after the second period in both games that we won’t win, we played a solid third period. I know we will learn a lot from the last two games. But I am happy that I got the chance to play in both of them. By never giving up I hope we earned a little respect even though the final score looked really bad for us.
After two weeks, our trip had come to an end and it was time to go back home. The 4th place is something we can be happy about, but at the same time we can’t. It helped as a lot to get into the German Media and made upcoming trials a lot easier for us. But as an athlete you always want to win so, it was kind of hard to see the positive after losing the last two games.
Three weeks later I am really proud of my team and I am feeling honored that I got the chance to be part of such a great group of people and everything we achieved in our Cinderella-Tournament. But one thing that will stay on my mind: Finishing 4th will not bring back our Olympic spot.
But I hope this tournament showed all the hockey girls that you should never give up especially when a loss is still hurting really bad. And that being an underdog does not mean you can’t play your heart out for your team and try your best. Eventually you will find yourself in the middle of a Cinderella team.
Thank you USA Hockey for organizing a great tournament and all the employees at the rink who were never tired of giving us some high-fives and smiles. But especially to our host John who was our number 1 fan and helped us a lot and was a great guy to be around.
(Photos by Minas Panagiotakis/HHOF-IIHF Images)