By Kris Smith
Founded in 1984 EHC Freiburg play in the second tier of German hockey. The city of Freiburg is located in the southwest of Germany and is a short distance from the borders with France and Switzerland. The Wolves play their home games at the Franz Siegel Halle which can hold a crowd of up to 5800 people.
Freiburg have spent time in each of Germany’s top four leagues of professional hockey and most of their seasons have seen them playing in their current league, the Deutsche Eishockey Liga, also known as the DEL2. They were promoted to the DEL, the top league in Germany, after being crowned DEL 2 Champions back in 2003 but could not sustain their top-flight status in their first season. Between 2003 to 2011 the club changed their name to Wolfe Freiburg before returning to EHC Freiburg.
Since relegation from the DEL, Freiburg have been yo-yoing up and down between the German second and third divisions. They were then relegated to the fourth division in 2010-11 but the Wolves have climbed back into the second tier and have held onto their spot in the DEL 2.
Head Coach, Alexej Sulak, is a former Freiburg player between 1987-90. He took the reins in 2013 and has restored the Wolves position in the DEL2 after promoting them from Germany3 in his second year in charge. He is assisted by Jan Melichar, a Czech who is well in touch with the British game. He played for a number of English sides, including Bracknell Bees, Slough Jets and Swindon Wildcats before joining Freiburg where he ended his playing career. Melichar was a player-coach at Slough in 2009-10 and became an assistant coach at the UK’s Okanagan Hockey Academy between 2012 and 2014. When he joined Freiburg in 2014, he took up the assistant coach role under Sulak.
Sulak has retained the services of their top point scorer last season, centreman Nikolas Linsenmaier. The Freiburg native put up 19 goals and assisted 32 times in the 52-game season. He added a further 6 goals and 4 assists from 7 playoff games. Linesmaier played his way through the Freiburg youth system and is now a main stay in his eighth season with the first team.
The Wolves have a trio of goaltenders signed up for the 2018/19 campaign. Matthias Nemec is the likely starter, the 27-year old Czech born keeper has always played his hockey in Germany and worked his way up through the leagues. Before joining Freiburg, he lost out in last season’s playoff finals with SC Riesseree after backstopping them to first place in the DEL2.
From 27 games Nemec had a Goals Against Average (GAA) of 2.90 and a Save Percentage (SV%) of .901. After 10 playoff matches, the Czech recorded a GAA of 2.29 and a SV% of .914.
Expected to be the back-up to Nemec is 26-year old German goalie, Jimmy Hertel. He signed form DEL 2 opposition Ravensburg Towerstars and last season made 7 appearances with a GAA of 3,26 and .903 SV%.
Leon Meder will be the third choice, aged 19, the German came through the Freiburg youth system before moving to Schwenniger and playing in their under 19’s squad. He re-joined Freiburg at the end of last season, playing only one game and not conceding.
There are only two North American players on the team. Canadian forward Mason Baptista played in the NCAA III and ECHL before joining Freiburg this summer. The only American on the team is defenceman, Alex Miner Barron and he played with Coventry Blaze last season, where he put up 4 goals and 9 assists from 24 matches.
German Defenceman, Dennis Meyer first joined Wolfe Freiburg ten years ago and now aged 40 is still contributing to the team on both blue lines. Meanwhile Freiburg born forward, Tobias Kunz, has only ever played for his hometown team, last season he featured in 50 games and scored 12 goals, while assisting on 26. The Wolves have also kept their captain, Philipp Rießle, for another year. This will be his sixth campaign wearing the “C” for Freiburg and his eighth season with the club.
Finally, a familiar name for Stars fans is Jeffery Szwez, who played two years in Belfast with the Giants, firstly in 2009-10 before re-joining the Northern Irish side in 2013-14. He spent the prior season with Freiburg in the Germany 3 league.
Tickets for our exhibition games against Freiburg have been selling fast! You can get yours today from the DIA box office or online!