Straubing, Lower Bavaria, Gäuboden, 48,000 inhabitants – and an ice hockey club. By the way, the smallest location in the highest German league DEL. The interim results of the Straubing Tigers are impressive: 47 points out of 23 of 52 games in the main round, second place. Just ahead of champions Adler Mannheim, far behind league club EHC Red Bull München.
Last Friday and Sunday there was an Upper Bavarian derby double pack for the Tigers: first the guest appearance in Munich, then the home game against ERC Ingolstadt. 1: 3 was called after 60 minutes of playing time in the state capital. Painful but bearable. 4: 1, however, in the home stadium on Pulverturm against the resurgent Schanzer. Clear, but expectable. Matthias Buchleitner, media representative of the Tigers, im jwTalk: “These derbies have a special character, of course.” It was a good weekend, in the end. The success against Ingolstadt meant the ninth home win in a row this season. And that's not all: with a total of 86 hits, the Tigers hold the record in the DEL.
This is another reason why commentators consider Straubinger to be the seasonal surprise team. But how much bang is really in the Tigers? Not so much. “Our current squad,” emphasizes Buchleitner, “is the result of continuous, years of development work.” And the best possible squad included German players from the region as well as contingent players without a German passport. The seasonal budget was gradually increased to around six million euros. Compared to the industry sizes Munich, Cologne, Berlin or Mannheim », we have different financial conditions in the ice hockey town of Straubing«, says Buchleitner.
Already last season, the Tigers set a club record: 81 points in the main round. In the Preplayoffs but then against the polar bears Berlin was over. The shortcoming: the wear and tear of the top scorer, who had too much ice due to lack of broad and deep squad, could regenerate too little on the bench. The club leadership around managing director Gabriele Sennebogen and the sporting director Jason Dunham drew consequences. The core of the squad remained, was strengthened targeted: “The new additions, which we have received, all fit,” stated head coach Tom Pokel, who can muster four strong play rows. And most of all, key players like Marcel Brandt and Frederik Eriksson on the defensive and Mitchell Heard or Jeremy Williams on the offensive can take a breather now and then.
Successes make you confident: “I think we can win any game,” said the NHL experienced Tigers keeper Jeff Zatkoff recently. Pokel knows about his character: “He's a winning guy who always wants to win.” And that translates into his puck hunters. But the so-called hockey IQ of a team also includes not overestimating itself, warns the gang leader. “That means staying grounded and looking up at the same time.”
At least the Tigers seem to be stable. So far, Pokel's ice-quipe has coped well with losses, never losing more than twice in a row during the season, then winning again. Setbacks even have a pedagogical value: “That was a healthy defeat for us,” said Pokel to 0: 2 at the Wild Wings from Schwenningen end of November. This can only say coaches whose team is well on track. The seasonal goal? “The playoffs,” says Buchleitner. It would not be coincidence. But: “Playoffs are always a vabanque game with regard to injured players.” That's true, it will be decisive that the Tigers will not run out of steam in the final rounds.