Top games against Hügelsheim and Mannheim

Ice Hockey Regional League
“Hockey Heart – What more do you want?”

Ice hockey regional league team EHC Zweibrücken starts the last five weeks of the main round with a brace. On Saturday, the Hornets will play the top game in Hügelsheim. Less than 24 hours later, the game in the local Ice Arena against Mannheim follows.

The ice hockey players of EHC Zweibrücken started the new year with a bang in the remaining six main round games of the Regionalliga Südwest. This Saturday, the Hornets are guests at 7.30 p.m. in Baden-Airpark at ESC Hügelsheim. The “Rhinos” are front runners and, like their pursuers, Stuttgarter EC, they are where the Zweibrücken team would like to be at the end of the main round: in one of the first two places. In the play-offs, which are played as a best-of-five series after the regular season, these would mean home advantage in a possible decisive fifth game.

Less than 24 hours after the game in Baden-Württemberg, the hornets are challenged again. On Sunday at 6:30 p.m., the EHCZ welcomes the Mad Dogs Mannheim to their home game in the Ice Arena.

The Zweibrücker are currently in third place, participation in the knockout games is basically in the dry cloths. But in order to actually climb up to second place, a win at the Airpark on Saturday might be necessary. The Hornets (26 points) played one game less than Hügelsheim (33) and Stuttgart (30). The mortgage could still be substantial in the event of a loss. At least the top would lose sight of the Hornets.

EHCZ trainer Ralf Wolf sees it that way too. “Of course we’re going to Hügelsheim to win,” he says. Knowing full well that his team has not yet managed to do this in the current season. The Hornets have lost both games against the league leaders (4:8 and 2:6). In addition, the team from Zweibrücken, who won eight games, suffered just one more defeat against EKU Mannheim (3:5).

“We still haven’t found the right key against Hügelsheim,” said Hornets striker Julian Reiss at the end of November. But Wolf firmly believes that this key has now been found. The 43-year-old does not want to reveal what he looks like in concrete terms, how he intends to crack the opponent. The fact that his team has not yet come off the ice as a winner against the Rhinos this season is not a stumbling block in this endeavor. “It’s more of an incentive. This time it’s our turn,” Wolf says with certainty.

He looks forward to the top game with great anticipation. “It’s going to be full right away. The cabin will be almost sold out. For the first time this season, a fan bus will accompany us. Ice hockey heart – what more could you ask for? This is exactly the right game for us if we want to be at our peak in five weeks when the play-offs start.”

On Tuesday, after a short Christmas break, the team from Zweibrücken started training again for the remaining round. “The boys made a good impression, pushed hard and were focused. There was nobody there who had a good time over the holidays,” praises Wolf, who after the opening session “again told his team very clearly what it’s all about now”.

That’s exactly what the coach had already done in mid-November. “After the second defeat against Hügelsheim there were a few things that we addressed internally. I think that has borne fruit,” reports the 43-year-old, whose team then won all of their remaining five games in the old year.

With new signing Justin Grillo in their luggage, the Hornets want to continue this series. The 24-year-old American joined the team in mid-December but has yet to play for his new club. “A strong, agile striker with great vision. It’s very difficult to defend him,” says Wolf, describing his training impressions. “I’m looking forward to being able to let him off the chain.”

Grillo, who last played for the Swedish third division club Kiruna AIF, was previously on the ice in the USA in the NCAA III (National Collegiate Athletic Association) for four years together with Michael Morrissey, who had joined the Zweibrückers before the round. “The two understand each other blindly,” enthuses Wolf. He thinks: “It was the right decision to fill the second contingent player position after all. And I’m sure that when things get serious, Justin will up the ante compared to training. He wants to show himself”

Not only the Hornets go with reinforcements – but Hügelsheim also goes into the third comparison of the two teams. The Rhinos secured Austin Chiak’s services back in late November. The all-rounder from Illinois came to ESC with a recommendation of 167 games for Wolves Freiburg (DEL 2). Chiak has been inactive since 2019 – but he obviously hasn’t forgotten anything. In his first four games for Hügelsheim, the 32-year-old was involved in nine goals (one goal, eight assists).

On Sunday in the catch-up game between the Hornets and Mannheim, EHCZ new signing Justin Grillo will present himself to the Zweibrücken fans in the Ice Arena. He should have done that just before Christmas. But the game was canceled at short notice by the Mad Dogs for personal reasons. A circumstance that the Hornets had received with little enthusiasm. “We had invited sponsors and ordered a buffet. I canceled a birthday because of the game,” reports Wolf. “I don’t know the background. Mannheim must have had its reasons. But it was annoying. We put a lot of effort into the game and would have had to replace six sick players ourselves,” adds the coach, who points out that “Bietigheim came to us with only ten men to catch up. I find that honorable.”

While Bietigheim, who are at the bottom of the table by two points, is no longer at stake, the game on Sunday is just as important for Mannheim as it is for the team from Zweibrücken. The Mad Dogs need every point to climb to fourth place on the home straight of the main round – and thus to reach the play-offs. Accordingly, Wolf also expects an “intensive game. It could be the last chance for Mannheim.”

Of course, the focus is first on the hit with the front runner. The EHCZ has to do without Dustin Bauscher and Fabian Fellhauer. That’s why Felix Stokowski started training. “In any case, we will pitch our tents in Hügelsheim with three strong rows,” says Wolf before the summit meeting. Ice hockey heart – what more could you ask for!

The EHC Zweibruecken organizes a “Family Day” on Sunday in the home game against the Mad Dogs from Mannheim. Admission is free for a maximum of four children (up to the age of 17) per family if the kids are accompanied by their parents or a parent.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.