All hockey fans know that anything is possible in a short series, and that “that’s why we play the games” but some things just seem inevitable. One of those things was Storhamar’s Norwegian championship this season.
The team won the regular-season title with a 15-point margin to Sarpsborg, the runner-up. In the playoffs, Storhamar lost only two games, and, as they marched to the title, their goal difference in the 14 games was 67-22.
In the final, they beat Lillehammer 4-1 in games.
It was Storhamar’s first Norwegian championship in ten years, and ended Stavanger Oilers’ hockey supremacy in the country. The Oilers had won six straight and seven of the eight last championships. The title was Storhamar’s fourth since 1997 when the club was the Norwegian hockey dynasty to reckon with, having won three championships in a row. Storhamar is one of the big three in Norwegian hockey, together with the Oilers and Oslo-based Valerenga. Since 1990, Storhamar, Stavanger, and Valerenga have won 25 Norwegian championships. Or, conversely, only three times the champion hasn’t been one of those teams.
In the 2018 edition, Storhamar didn’t leave much to speculation, beating eight-placed Lorenskog in four straight games, with a 27-3 goal difference. Lorenskog finished 62 points behind Storhamar in the regular-season standings.
The final series was the closest of the three, and with the exception of the first game in which Storhamar beat Lillehammer 7-0, the games between these regional rivals were close and Game 4 went into OT. In Game 5, Storhamar found themselves trailing early on, but two second-period goals tipped the scale in their favour.
“We were nervous in the beginning but the longer the game went the better we played. We may have been a little too passive in the third period, but we managed to hold on to the lead,” said Jacob Berglund who scored the important go-ahead goal early in the second period.
“Now all I feel is joy, this is fantastic,” he told Norwegian NRK.
Coach Fredrik Soderstrom had tears in his eyes after the final game.
“I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished together, with the team and the whole town. I’m relieved, and I feel an inner euphoria,” said the 40-year-old Swede who took over the reins this season.
“It’s been a pleasure to coach this team, there’s so much strength and creativity in the dressing room. I’ll never forget this,” he added.
Storhamar’s players dominated the playoffs stats, naturally, with four players in the top 4 in scoring. Team captain Kodie Curran grabbed the top spot with 29 points in 14 games. Goaltender Oskar Ostlund posted the best save percentage, 93.7, and the best goals against average, 1.44.
Curran also let his fellow Canadian, Christian Larrivee, be the first one to hoist the trophy, as a reward for his loyalty to the club and his hard work for the team. Larrivee has played for Storhamar for nine seasons, first one in 2007, but when the club won their previous title in 2008, he was in the Danish league, and returned to Norway in 2010.
“This is my Stanley Cup. This title means so much to me,” he told Norwegian news agency NTB.
“It was a great gesture by Kodie, and it means so much to me. For ten years I’ve dreamed about winning this at home in front of our home fans, and finally the day is here,” Larrivee added.
It was worth the wait.