The season 2011/2012 will be the most precious part of the Tigers chronicle after the win of the championship 2005 in the DEL_2 (= 2nd Bundesliga or second highest hockey league). There is no doubt at all, that the Tigers organization has achieved a great success closing up the main season on rank 6 and reaching the half final versus the Ice Bears of Berlin, the later champion of this season.
I guess you would like to know how that happened. I feel rather proud to tell you the details of this miracle.
As always the last game in a season has got a special flavor and this is mainly true for the Tigers, too. My son Tobias joined me for this obvious last showdown in the season and he turned out to be a real mascot. Suffering from numerous injured players we had to deal with the Adler Mannheim one of the top favorites for the title.
We started off well enough to take a lead after 4 minutes and everything seemed to be going its way perfectly; however, during our first penalty the Eagles scored like a champion and got even ahead with 2:1 after the first period. The second period was characterized by lots of mistakes by the Tigers and Mannheim took advantage from another penalty leading 3.1 after the second period.
What did this mean for the third period? Were the Tigers able to beat back or was their only goal now to play decently to end up the season reasonably? What we experienced in the last period was extraordinary: we got closer soon and even scored another time within 30 seconds. Now the Pulverturm seemed to be fully awake supporting the team extremely loud and intense. All of a sudden the Tigers had got the chance to win that game; in fact, 5 minutes were still to play and we scored our 4th goal which was almost incredible to everybody.
Finally, the fifth goal gave us the opportunity to still hope for a playoff ticket. It was simply unbelievable what was going on in the stadium this late afternoon. We still had to wait for the final result of Augsburg vs. Düsseldorf: we nervously asked our neighbor for the latest update, it was amazing how long it should take to get the ultimate piece of information. The prerequisite for a success of the Tigers would be a tied game in Augsburg after the official 60 minutes. And believe it or not, the score was still 3:3 but that game was not over yet and went on for another 5 minutes.
Time was not flying when having fun, this was definitely true at that moment – eventually, our unique speaker announced the result and all players came out from their locker room holding mugs of local Bavarian beer in their hands and heading to the fans to celebrate this success.
The Pulvertum ended up like a madhouse with all fans singing and cheering at the same time. Unbelievable moments and spirits we were happy to experience; my son Tobias felt like on cloud nine.
Our opponent for the quarter final had to be conveyed as well and it was Wolfsburg, the Grizzly Adams which surely would not be too happy about this lottery. The Tigers were considered the most unpleasant team to play against. This advantage needed to be maintained throughout this series, this could be our chance.
But you will find out, when I continue with my true fairytale.
Official press and media illustrated the emotions that turned out after the quarter finals; with Bruno St. Jacques being a great member of this inspiring team full of inspiration and creativity the perfect celebration of this unexpected victory must have looked like performed on ice after that great game.
Starting off with our first playoff game in Wolfsburg in the Porsche arena everyone was fairly excited about our first performance. Believe it or not, our oldie Calvin Elfring who has been the only player left from the triumph in 2005/2006 really shot our first goal in the history of DEL playoffs. The Tigers got even ahead 2:0 keeping up the hopes and dreams of the fans for a first sensational win over the favorite team from Wolfsburg; eventually, the Grizzly Adams could only score once so that the big surprise became true in fact.
I proactively predicted the upcoming hype for our first home match and managed a precious ticket. There was no doubt, that it was officially reported “sold out” and I was a part of it – what a big deal!
You can barely imagine what kind of game took part that evening. It was unseen before, the Tigers celebrated hockey to its finest art and scored one goal after another leading three to nothing after the first period. Some people believed Wolfsburg lost this second game due to undisciplined behavior within one minute, but nevertheless the performance of the Tigers has to be highly appreciated.
Since we even got further ahead with 6:0 before the last period began, the game was definitely decided in favor of the Straubing Tigers.
Since then, the respect and praise towards the Tigers was to be felt all over the country, in particular in Wolfsburg.
However, nothing happened in fact: two games were played, the Tigers lead 2:0 in the series but still 2 more matches had to be won before shaking hands on ice.
As the head coach of the Grizzlies said on the press conference after the second game in Straubing: “It does not matter at all, how you win a playoff game, just the victory is of the essence.”
Anyway, the players were accompanied by about 1,000 passionate fans to their third game away; this ought to be a real good support for the skating actors. I should mention beforehand, that during the playoffs the Tigers chartered a local plane to get to the city of Wolfsburg on time without suffering from too much stress. Any kind of jet lag was certainly avoided by that clever means.
It was amazing to hear about a 3:0 lead of the Tigers after about 50 minutes – what could have gone wrong now? OK, the Grizzlies fought back and scored their honorary goal, but would it be too late for coming back in time?
As you might assume, yes it was and therefore the Tigers traveled back with another uncalculated victory in their bags.
In addition, you need to know that the fans joined a special train which was organized by the local fan clubs; as a matter of fact this train got stuck about one hour away from the final destination and the fans could only enter the stadium when the second period started off. The good thing about this delay was, that simultaneously when the spectators cheerfully but literally poured in the Tigers shot their first goal.
This was the stimulus they needed; there was no doubt about it.
The crowd was so loud that the local fans of Wolfsburg could not compete with; it seemed to be like another home game.
At this moment of the series everything was really possible – just imagine playing the half final versus the official champion of Berlin!
What could have been better than this incredible thought?
Of course, achieving a ticket for the – hopefully – last game of this series would turn out to be rather tough. However, I could happily cling to my special friend Martin, who made my dream real by providing this extremely valuable paper.
Still, I was a bit cautious since this game definitely had to be the most difficult one of all four. I was pretty sure, that the Grizzlies would make all attempts to win this time, in order to preserve their chances to head on. So it was at least in the first period, when they really got ahead, which was totally new for the Tigers. Now we were very curious how the Tigers would come out for the second period. These 20 minutes happened to be another highlight for the hockey history in Straubing. By playing like heroes we scored four times and seemed to have decided the game already after 40 minutes.
The last period would surely offer the final answer; it was a game with lots of chances on both sides with the Tigers scoring another three times and leaving the Grizzlies only two more goals at the end.
Now history was a factual matter in Straubing thanks also to Matt Hussey, our goal getter who played terrific not only this time.
The fans were outstanding and the stadium was like a madhouse again. The police even allowed for a automobile parade through the city of Straubing due to this exceptional situation.
Upon heading back to Freising that evening I felt so proud and lucky expecting the upcoming games to be watched lively.
Soon it became clear that our opponent for the half final should be the Ice Bears of Berlin, the official champion of the DEL (Deutsche Eishockey Liga).
Could it be more exciting to play against the giant of the league?
The Tigers did not have many days to recover and had to be the guest in the O2 arena in April. Unfortunately, our goalie Barry Brust suffered from some lack of minor concentration: the first goal of Berlin could have been avoided for sure. However, there was still much time to play but somehow the Ice Bears turned out to be more efficient than the Tigers in game one eventually beating us 4:1.
Back home it should be another story, this was our feeling. In fact, Berlin fans were numerous the evening and a little bit scary as well.
My friend and I tried not to get in contact to closely. We even disliked their cheering song “Dynamo, Dynamo” which reminded us too much of the cold war period.
Maybe this strange feeling carried us through the complete game which we also lost 1:4. The Tigers did not really have a solid chance to beat the Ice Bears or even compete against them properly.
You never know what might happen and so we crossed out fingers for game # 3 in Berlin, which was shown on TV of course. The Tigers were forced to perform at its best and maintain the slight opportunity of reaching another game at home. That way they acted and they were really tough this time beating Berlin 3:1 which was well-deserved. Every objective spectator could have signed this statement.
Now the momentum was on our side again and the second home game was sold out within 45 minutes; besides, I was lucky again to obtain another precious ticket.
Obviously, this decisive game for Berlin happened to be a drama from the very first beginning; again, the Tigers had to cope with the first goal of Berlin after about 10 minutes but the captain Michael Bakos scored to tie up in the first period.
In the second period we even got ahead with 2:1 due to a goal of our defense leader Sebastian Osterloh.
The atmosphere in the stadium was indescribable – the notion ‘madhouse’ even to little to capture the feelings.
Could it really become true for the Tigers to climb up to the finals? It was so close for everybody but one period can last like an eternity – an so it was: Berlin revealed its overwhelming class and came back with a 3:2 lead and now the Tigers felt the pressure to equal the game which did not occur in the end, because the Ice bears scored a fourth time deciding the match.
In the end, it shouldn’t have happened – but the entire community of Straubing felt real pride and respect from the opponent.
The whole city fully appreciated this extraordinary performance of such an underdog like the Straubing Tigers.
The Straubing Tigers were now a solid part of DEL history.