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Sharks celebrate at the Wintergame in Cologne: they freeze while playing ice hockey

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At the end, Uwe Krupp sang along when the Cologne song “Stääne” (stars) sounded through the Cologne stadium. The Haie trainer, who was born in Cologne, was confident in his lyrics and also seemed a bit touched. Understandably, given the performance his Haie team showed in the 4:2 open-air game against Adler Mannheim on Saturday, in the fifth winter game of the German Ice Hockey League (DEL).

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In front of 40,136 spectators, the KEC pros were perfectly fit and so motivated and determined that they dominated Mannheim for 60 minutes. “To beat Mannheim, we didn’t just have to play any good game, but a special one. And that was it in all respects. It wasn’t just the audience that was exceptional, but also our performance,” said Uwe Krupp.

That evening, which ended with a nice fireworks display in the stadium, almost everything went perfectly for the Haie. The ice in the stadium, which was worked on for three weeks, was so hard and smooth at temperatures of two to three degrees that fast and precise play was possible. And that suited the tech-savvy teams. After Cologne had taken a 2-0 lead in the first third thanks to goals from Maxi Kammerer and Louis-Marc Aubry, the Eagles tried to get into the game by playing hard.

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That didn’t seem to bother the sharks at all, on the contrary: they accepted the fight and seemed even more motivated beforehand. Ryan MacInnis’ goal to make it 2-1 in the second period was followed by a game-winning double on the power play by Nick Bailen at five-on-three and David McIntyre at five-on-four. So it was 4:1. The KEC remained superior in the final third as well, despite Borna Rendulic’s second Mannheim goal. In short: The Haie, who have already experienced some ups and downs this DEL season, played in the prestigious game against one of the best teams in the league on Saturday, like the team they want to be: a playoff candidate and championship aspirant.

There will be two more ice hockey games this season at the Cologne soccer stadium

However, there was also an ugly moment: Cologne attacker Landon Ferraro was struck down in the second period by Mannheim’s David Wolf with a hidden check with his elbow. And in such a way that Ferraro was already knocked out before he fell on the ice and stayed there. Four helpers had to accompany the 31-year-old into the cabin. Ferraro spent the night in hospital after suffering a concussion. This means that he is completely out of training for at least two weeks. “I did not see him. I’m very sorry,” said Wolf later, who only received a two-minute penalty for the foul in the game.

It was the Haie’s first victory in their third participation in a DEL Winter Game. In 2015 they lost 3-2 to DEG in the Düsseldorf football stadium. In the first Cologne Winter Game in Müngersdorf in January 2019, the KEC team again lost to Düsseldorf, this time 2-3 after extra time. The next Winter Game is set to take place in the 2024/25 season. Will the Kölner Haie apply again? Managing Director Philipp Walter said neither yes nor no, but: “We have shown that we can do it.”

The Haie will be able to prove twice more in the next few weeks that they can do it, because they will also play in the DEL against Bremerhaven on December 22nd and against Augsburg on January 8th in the stadium. However, without the big winter game program. The Haie are also more modest when it comes to the audience: “We hope that 15,000 to 20,000 spectators will come,” said Walter.

The Haie chose this path because there weren’t enough free dates for them in the Lanxess Arena, their usual home ground, around Christmas. Alternatively, they would have had to play in Cologne in the mornings or move to another city, such as Krefeld. And they didn’t want that.

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Source: Tagesspiegel

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