BERNE – In a game that had no bearing on either team's 2010 IIHF World Championship fortunes, Germany beat Hungary 2-1 to secure 15th place and conclude the Relegation Round at PostFinance Arena.
Germany will host the 2010 tournament in Cologne and Mannheim, and therefore, due to IIHF regulations, cannot be relegated to Division I this year.
Last-place Hungary, which has applied to host the 2014 IIHF World Championship, was already fated to return to Division I. 2009 marked Hungary's first appearance at the top level of the World Championship since 1939.
"The Germans controlled pretty much the whole game," said Hungarian coach Pat Cortina. "I have to recognize the fact that we had four pretty good games. Considering this was our first tournament in the top division, I can't be too disappointed. Our players were in awe in the game against Canada. Overall, I was happy with our team's effort in the tournament. It wasn't easy for the other teams to play against us."
Moritz Müller and Michael Bakos scored for Germany. Andras Horvath replied for Hungary.
Germany clearly missed the injection of offence that absent top stars like Marco Sturm of the Boston Bruins or Christian Ehrhoff of the San Jose Sharks could have brought in this tournament if healthy or available. Still, many questions remain to be answered after the squad in black, red and gold produced a paltry six goals in six games, tied for last with Hungary.
"It was a disappointing tournament but we tried to finish it well," said Germany's Jochen Hecht. "We haven't been able to score, even if we've had chances. We had a must-win game against France, and had we won that one, the tournament would have been a success. We struggled to score in that game and lost confidence in ourselves, and couldn't finish the job in other games either."
German goalie Dimitri Pätzold got his first win of the tournament as his team put up a 43-16 edge in shots on goal. Meanwhile, Zoltan Hetenyi took over between the pipes for Hungary in his first start. Number one goalie Levente Szuper got a well-deserved rest after stopping 199 of the 221 shots he faced in five previous starts.
"It was an honour to play in the top division," said Hetenyi. "I was a little bit nervous. I almost threw up before the game. After a few saves, I was calmer."
It took Germany 3:11 to open the scoring on the power play, as Moritz Müller snared the puck in front of the Hungarian net and sent a cheeky backhander through his legs and into the open side.
The Hungarians struggled to generate offensive chances early on, but they connected to tie the game with a two-man advantage with 2:51 left in the period, as Horvath hammered home a slapshot from just outside the right faceoff circle. The cheering section of Hungarian fans erupted with drum-beating enthusiasm.
After long stretches of uncoordinated play by both teams, Germany went up 2-1 at 13:23 of the second period, working a 4-on-3 power play as Bakos sent a wrister high past Hetenyi's blocker.
Shortly afterwards, Michael Hackert was impeded by Viktor Tokaji on a near-breakaway, leading to another German power play. The Germans carried the play now, outshooting Hungary 33-14 through two periods, but, as has been their wont in this tournament, couldn't increase their lead.
Hackert hit the crossbar during Germany's second power play of the final period. The Hungarians battled to get the equalizer in the dying stages, even calling a timeout with three seconds left, but neither team had any offence left in them.
"We knew the Hungarian team," said German coach Uwe Krupp. "We played against them two and a half years ago for a promotion to the top level, and we've played exhibition games. It's a well-prepared team, and tactically sound. The game was tight, but again, we weren't able to capitalize on our chances to get the cushion that would have helped us play a little more loose."
Announced attendance was 3,497. Hetenyi was honoured as Hungary's Player of the Game, and Germany's was Müller.
For history-minded football fans, the matchup inescapably called to mind the 1954 World Cup final, won 3-2 by an underdog German squad versus Hungary at Berne's Wankdorf Stadium. The Germans still refer to it as the “Miracle of Berne” and see it as an important milestone in their post-World War II recovery.
Despite being relegated, the Hungarians can justifiably view the 2009 IIHF World Championship as a hockey landmark of their own. After the German anthem was played, the Hungarian players stayed standing on their blueline as their fans regaled them with the Hungarian national hymn. They waved and clapped appreciatively before skating off the ice.
"Now we know how much harder we have to work," said Hetenyi. "There's a big gap between the national leagues in the big nations and our league. But hopefully we can be back soon."
The last time these two nations met in World Championship hockey, Germany beat Hungary 6-2 on February 11, 1939 in Zurich.