After his successful comeback and the 2-1 win against the Kölner Haie at the start of the quarter-final series, Eisbären striker Leo Pföderl stood barefoot as usual in the catacombs of the arena at Ostbahnhof. He analyzed a Bavarian hearty game, as one is used to from him, that became exciting again because the guests had scored the goal six minutes before the end, although the Berliners had the game completely under control beforehand: “Like the Cologne team occurred was not at all surprising. It’s clear that they don’t play much hockey,” he said.
A rustic style of play that occasionally pushes the boundaries of what is allowed is a key feature of the playoffs. “As long as we keep cool, they usually can’t play with us,” he announced cheerfully.
Especially since the Berlin game has improved enormously in quality with the return of Pföderl after a two-month forced break. In particular, his alter ego Marcel Noebels benefits significantly from this interaction. “I missed him very much. In the end, someone else always played with us,” said Noebels. “The adjustment phase didn’t last very long, we found each other well again.”
Playful upswing since 2019
One could even speak of a blind understanding that connects the two. It was good to see the opening goal to make it 1-0, when Pföderl put the disc backhand right to Noebels, who scored the first Berlin play-off goal of the year. Pföderl summed it up accordingly: “He gave me the disc and I knew that he would probably go to the goal behind me – he almost has to do that. We already have that in place.” The fact that Matt White was initially announced as the assist provider shows that even the officials probably would not have expected such a return from Pföderl.
Noebels and Pföderl have been playing together for three years now and harmonize splendidly. The playful upswing of the polar bears, which began in 2019 when coach Serge Aubin took office, is particularly evident in this duo, which knows how to involve and carry away the third man in the league. “We have enough good players who find their way to us,” said Noebels about the influence of the two national strikers.
When James Sheppard left the Eisbären in 2020 after the prematurely ended season to join the Kölner Haie, it was initially feared that offensive qualities would also be lost. Noebels in particular initially had doubts that something decisive could break away with the departure of his buddy.
But things turned out differently: In the past season, young star Lukas Reichel joined the two and fitted right into the middle of the alpha animals – without only playing a supporting role. Thanks in part to them, Reichel was able to say goodbye to North America with the best recommendations.
epicenter of the offensive
And again this season, this series of storms forms the epicenter of the powerful Berlin offensive. In the first phase of the season, Blaine Byron twirled alongside the two. Zach Boychuk is currently playing in the centre: “It makes a bit of a difference in terms of play. Blaine stands more for rush-forward, because he simply has enormous speed,” explained Pföderl. “It doesn’t mean that the Zach is slow, but he’s just a little more controlled and confident.” Allowing the wingers to fully develop.
The second game of the best-of-five series on Tuesday in Cologne (7:30 p.m.) will be about countering the physical approach of the Haie, just like on Sunday. “They’ll push it to the limit again, I even think it’ll be a little bit more because they’re playing at home,” predicted Pföderl. “But that’s what makes it so, that’s real play-off ice hockey.”
And this is precisely why Pföderl’s return is extremely important. Aubin, who was named coach of the year, said at the press conference. “He’s a physical player and the playoffs are more physical. He plays intelligently and scores goals. We just know what we have in him.” Which is no less true for his partner Noebels.