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Sharpened senses for the Lions for the rest of the ice hockey season

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Sharpened senses for the Lions for the rest of the ice hockey season

Eight points. That is the comfortable distance that the Nürnberg Ice Tigers have over the Löwen Frankfurt in the German Ice Hockey League (DEL). While the Nuremberg team are in 10th place and thus the last pre-play-off place, the Lions are still in twelfth place after the 4:5 defeat on Tuesday evening against EHC Munich.

The Frankfurt team will no longer speculate on the pre-play-offs. Because the Ice Tigers would have to lose all three remaining league games, Frankfurt would have to win the next three games against Ingolstadt, Iserlohn and Düsseldorf in regular time in order to extend the season again and even have vague hopes of participating in the play-offs can. This combination is extremely unlikely.

But the people of Frankfurt have been sharpening their minds for weeks in the fight against relegation, because staying in the league is not yet guaranteed. “People often wait for there to be more action here. I don’t agree with that,” said sports director and interim coach Franz-David Fritzmeier on the streaming service MagentaSport immediately after the defeat against Munich. Disciplined play on offense but also on defense is the tactical requirement on the way to staying in the league. However, there is a lack of continuous implementation over 60 minutes. The game against Munich was not the first that Frankfurt lost due to major individual mistakes.

“We’re used to each other now”

But there are also positive developments, particularly noticeable among the players whose contract extensions have already been announced or who already have a contract for the coming DEL season. The focus is again on the series of Dominik Bokk and Carter Rowney, who are now playing together again with 26-year-old Julian Napravnik. “It took a while for our line to click at the beginning. We are now used to each other, make good plays and score well,” said Napravnik, summing up the season. All three will also play for the Lions next season if they stay in the league.

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Napravnik has only been playing for the Hessians since November; previously he was in the squad of the Hershey Bears, who play in the second-tier American Hockey League (AHL). But he only got a little ice time there. A reason that made the desire for a change continue to grow. He is regularly used by the Lions for 18 to 20 minutes and is an important part of Frankfurt’s offensive game. But off the ice, Napravnik is still happy with his decision despite the club’s predicament. “There wasn’t much going on in Hershey other than hockey. The lifestyle is different here,” he says. The proximity to his family, which he can reach in twenty minutes from the Frankfurt ice rink, is also a feel-good factor.

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Less affected by fluctuations in performance this season was defender Maksim Matushkin, whom Fritzmeier praised as an “absolute professional and absolute role model” when he extended his contract for three more seasons. With his countless shots and assists, he is Hesse’s most effective professional in front of the opposing goal – and as a defensive force. On Friday evening in Ingolstadt (7:30 p.m.) he is expected to play his 50th game in the Lions uniform. Because, as befits a model professional, the 34-year-old has not missed a game this DEL season. If it stays that way, he will certainly see play-off games with the Lions – but probably not at the end of this season.

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