Home teams in up­set mode at Worlds

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - CIARAN FA­HEY

With Canada, Rus­sia and the United States in the tour­na­ment, co-hosts France and Ger­many are go­ing to need plenty of home ice ad­van­tage to spring an up­set at the hockey world cham­pi­onships.

The worlds start Fri­day in Cologne, with Ger­many tak­ing on the United States in Group A. The Group B matches will be played in Paris, with the semi­fi­nals and fi­nal back in Cologne.

Rus­sia, which won the last of its record 27 ti­tles in 2014, is also in Group A, along with Swe­den, Slo­vakia, Latvia, Den­mark and Italy. France is joined by Canada, Fin­land, the Czech Repub­lic, Switzer­land, Be­larus, Nor­way and Slove­nia in Group B. The Cana­di­ans play the Czechs on Fri­day.

The top four teams from each group ad­vance to the sec­ond round, with the first-place team in each group play­ing the team in fourth in the other.

“I’m not afraid at all. What should I be afraid of?” Ger­many for­ward Felix Schuetz said. “If we lose I won’t go to jail. I’ll still have my wife and my child.”

Ger­many, which last hosted the tour­na­ment seven years ago, will be hop­ing some home sup­port can help it reach at least the semi­fi­nals, just like it did in 2010.

But af­ter fac­ing the Amer­i­cans, Ger­many will take on Swe­den and Rus­sia.

“Re­al­is­ti­cally, we could be with­out any points af­ter three games,” Ger­man hockey fed­er­a­tion pres­i­dent Franz Reindl said.

While cap­tain Mar­cel Goc is in­jured and for­ward Leon Drai­saitl is still tied up with the Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers in the NHL play­offs, Ger­many will have goal­tender Thomas Greiss and New York Is­landers team­mate Den­nis Sei­den­berg, with Ari­zona Coy­otes winger To­bias Rieder and Ger­man league top­scorer Pa­trick Reimer of the Nurem­berg Ice Tigers up front.

“It will be dif­fi­cult enough,” Sei­den­berg said. “A lot can hap­pen in a tour­na­ment. You can be lucky in a game or sim­ply play better. Ev­ery­thing is pos­si­ble.”

Hockey in neigh­bour­ing France has been grow­ing in re­cent years and the na­tional team has per­formed well un­der long­time coach Dave Henderson, who is from Win­nipeg.

Hopes will rest on de­fence­man Yo­hann Au­vitu of the Al­bany Devils, An­toine Rous­sel of the Dal­las Stars and Pierre-Edouard Belle­mare of the Philadelphia Fly­ers. Rous­sel was named a tour­na­ment all-star in France’s 2014 quar­ter-fi­nal run.

But nei­ther France nor Ger­many can count on the cal­i­bre of 18 NHL play­ers that Canada named in its ini­tial list as it seeks its third straight ti­tle.

“Be­tween them, these play­ers have made 17 ap­pear­ances at this very event, in­clud­ing nine play­ers who’ve come away as gold medal­lists for Canada,” Canada gen­eral man­ager Ron Hex­tall said, “and they can play a big role in help­ing set the tone for this team.”

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