W.enn in the play-offs in ice Hockey When a series comes to an end, everything is often suddenly different. So bitter rivals become confidants. They just worked hard every other day, but now they say goodbye warmly and praise each other. This happened again on Wednesday night.

Eisbären Berlin had them Straubing Tigers They defeated 3-2 goals in extra time and thus achieved the decisive fourth victory in the fifth semi-final match. But despite all the joy of reaching the final, no Berliner forgot to address some warm words to the Lower Bavarians. “I respect Straubing, they caused us a lot of problems,” said Eisbären coach Serge Aubin, congratulating the Tigers on a “great season.” This is how you do it.

But one could believe Aubin that this was more than the usual industry courtesy. The series was much closer than the 4:1 would suggest. Four of the five games ended with a one-goal difference and two went to overtime. This is what Eisbären striker Tobias Eder said ahead of the final series against Bremerhaven that begins next Wednesday: “We definitely have to take one or two more steps.”

“We never doubted him”

Aubin will see it the same way. But the 49-year-old has no doubts whether his team can achieve it. The whole season is just one step forward. Because the previous one was quite miserable for the record champions of the German Ice Hockey League (DEL). In 2023, as defending champions, the Berliners did not even reach the play-offs. For the first time in 22 years, the most exciting moment of the ice hockey year took place without them. polar bears rather.

Normally in this case the coach has to leave, usually during the season. Just look at Mannheim, where there were four different coaches in two years. But the Berlin sports director, Stéphane Richer, did the opposite and extended the contract. “Serge Aubin is the right coach for Eisbären. “We are absolutely convinced of his qualities and we have never doubted him,” he stated then.

Now, we must not forget that the two French Canadians have a special connection with each other. They have been working together at Hamburg Freezers for five years now. Aubin arrived first as a player, then became an assistant and head coach. This only ended because the Friezas were purchased in 2016 by their owner, Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) of the United States, were dissolved. Richer initially went to the NHL as a scout for the Los Angeles Kings and moved to Berlin shortly after. He stayed in the company; These two clubs also belong to AEG.

Aubin, in turn, moved to Vienna, became champion of Austria and from there to Zurich, but it did not work out in Switzerland. And when the Berliners were looking for a new coach in 2019, Richer turned to his old trust and brought him to Eisbären. Since then, things have gone well again for the club, which dominated the DEL from 2005 to 2013 with seven championships in nine years.

Aubin's first season was canceled due to the Corona pandemic, after which he led Eisbären to the title in 2021 and 2022. So Richer looked elsewhere for the reasons for the collapse the following year. He brought in a dozen new players, gave the team a new hierarchy and Kai Wissmann, who had just returned from North America, became captain. But the coach remained the same. That was worth it.

“We won the championship twice in a row. It was more about how to quickly regain our former strength,” Aubin told Berlin television RBB during the main round. The Eisbären were again in the leading group for a long time. They finished the points round in second place and in the play-offs they eliminated Mannheim and Straubing in five games each. This is mainly due to Aubin, according to those around the team.

Attention to detail, good communication, the right combination of slow and clear announcements. It is described as tough but warm. And with clear tactics. He does not like cross play, the polar bears win the puck, advance, if necessary the puck is played deep and chased. It is more flexible when it comes to the composition of its lines. There is a lot of back and forth exchange, even during the game. But less to confuse opponents than to keep tension high in his team. So far it is working excellently. The Berliners are still four wins away from celebrating their third championship in four years. With a coach who would have been fired somewhere else a long time ago.