Yes way, Norway!
Yes way, Norway!
Top-level nation looking for goals
Norway is now playing in its eleventh straight top-level World Championship. It has finished as high as 6th, in 2011, and as low as 14th, in 2007, but it has always found a way to qualify for the succeeding year’s tournament. This year, with a veteran lineup, the R word (relegation) is not even a consideration for a team that has clawed and fought its way to respectability – provided it can get its offence in place.
The same three goalies who played in 2015 are back for Russia in 2016. Lars Haugen, playing in his sixth straight World Championship, appeared in five of the seven games last year and has a career record over 50% (15-0-14). Behind him is Lars Volden, who was 0-2 last year, and Steffen Soberg, who was the third goaltender and didn’t play.
Ole-Kristian Tollefsen, who has captained the team four of the last five years, will anchor a blue line which features seven returnees from the ten players listed on the pre-tournament roster.
Other veteran names fans will recognize include Jonas Holos, Mats Trygg, Mattias Norstebo, and Henrik Odegaard. The new names are Jonas Johannessen, Dennis Sveum, and 21-year-old Erlend Lesund. This will be a group intent more on playing around its goaltender and shutting down the opposition rather than assisting the offence. Last year the back end scored only four goals, three from Norstebo.
The only significant name missing from a forward unit that is virtually identical to 2015 is Patrick Thoresen. Beyond that, the roster is recognizable: Morten Ask, Anders Bastiansen, Kristian Forsberg, Ken Andre and Mathis Olimb. The challenge is that Thoresen led the team with four goals last year and the leading point getter, Mathis Olimb (8) didn’t score once.
The NHLer Andreas Martinsen of the Colorado Avalanche and Mats Zuccarello are on the roster. Where else are the goals going to come from? The newcomers are Michael Haga, a 24-year-old who last played at the 2011 WM20 for Norway, and Thomas Valkvae Olsen, who will turn 23 later this month. Sondre Olden, who played at both the World and Olympics in 2014, is also back. Among this core must come the goals.
Roy Johansen is the lynchpin to the Norwegian team. He took over head coaching duties in 2002, when the team played in Division I, and over four years moved the team from third place to second to first and promotion to the top level for 2006. Johansen has been with the national program the whole time, and his consistent place behind the bench is integral to the team’s success.
Norway is looking at games against Latvia, Denmark, and Kazakhstan as the vital ones to win. Interestingly, it has a great record against the Danes and weak record against the Latvians but has never faced the Kazakhs at WM play before. As always, these games will be a challenge, but there’s every reason to believe that Norway will be back in 2017 in the top level. But they have to get some goals. Last year, they had but 12 in seven games, and this year’s lineup is without its top scorer. The challenge is more from within than without.
Back to Overview