STAVANGER, Norway – The city is best known for their flourishing oil industry, but a bunch of people on skates have a different objective. The Stavanger Oilers are digging for gold and have been extremely successful in their quest. In a repeat of the 2012 finals, the Oilers defeated Lorenskog IK in six games.
Stavanger now has claimed five consecutive Norwegian titles and six in the last seven years. Mastermind behind all these titles is head coach Petter Thoresen, who has been at the helm since the 2009/2010 season. In each season he has been in charge, Thoresen has reached the finals with his team and on top of that won the Continental Cup in 2014.
The streak will come to an end though. After seven years, Norway’s top gold digger will take up a new challenge.
With Roy Johansson saying farewell as coach of the Norwegian national team after a long 16-year tenure, there was really one logic domestic candidate available for the job. Last December the final pen stroke was put on paper and Petter Thoresen was confirmed to lead the national team that he represented himself 96 times as a player, as per 1st June.
“I have been a part of Norwegian hockey since I was a kid. My heart was beating a little extra fast when I got this offer,” admitted Thoresen to Aftenposten. “Roy has brought good results but I always had in mind that my turn to coach the team was looming.”
Thoresen is the father of former NHLer Patrick and faced his other son Steffen, playing for Lorenskog IK, in the Get Ligaen final series.
Both of them saw Dan Kissel, who finished second on the team in regular season scoring with 48 points from 37 games, open the scoring in game six with a controversial goal.
After a scoreless first period, Kissel’s deflected a puck high out of the air through the five-hole of Lorenskog’s goaltender Jeff Jakaitis. With the Oilers already celebrating, the Lorenskog players claimed for a high stick. The goal went up for video review and the verdict fell positive for the visiting side.
Trailing by a goal and down 3-2 in the series, Lorenskog knew it had to bring something extra in the final period but were unable to cause any real trouble in the offensive zone. Instead the game was virtually over when Tommy Kristiansen doubled the Oilers’ lead four minutes into the period when he faked Jakaitis to the wrong corner to make it 2-0.
Stavanger was awarded a technical third goal with 90 seconds to play when Peter Lorentzen was fouled with the net empty.
“This title is a result of a fantastic team performance. All guys were disciplined and patient for the full 60 minutes,” said the 32-year-old Lorentzen, who was part of in all Stavanger championship teams.
After a smooth and near flawless regular season in which Stavanger topped the Get Ligaen with a massive 99 points from 45 games, the Oilers drilled to perfection in the quarter-final of the playoffs. Eighth-seed Manglerud Star was defeated in four straight games.
For the semi-finals, Stavanger was awarded the choice to play either Storhamar or Valerenga Oslo. Knowing the five regular-season games against Storhamar were all won by the Oilers, the choice was easily made but almost backfired on them.
The team from Hamar, who debuted in the Champions Hockey League this year, gave Stavanger a good run for their money taking the series to the maximum of seven games before admitting defeat with a 3-1 loss.
“We have benefited from this blow on the chin, which served as a wake-up call for us,” Thoresen commented after the series. “This will ensure we will be ready for the final and not underestimate our opponent.”
Awake and ready they were.
“The guys have been doing their job from day one and also won the final game of the season,” smiled the coach. “When that is the case, you win the King’s trophy.”
Thoresen’s reflection of the season makes coaching a team to five gold medals seem very simple. He will be remembered forever in Stavanger for his achievements but Thoresen can expect a golden statue of himself if he can deliver the same success to the Norwegian national team.
Currently ranked 11th in the IIHF World Ranking, the team has yet to win a medal at the highest level. Their best performance to date is a fourth place finish during the World Championship in 1951.
His first job will be to qualify for the Olympic Games in 2018. Drawn into a group with France, Kazakhstan and Italy, Norway will be up for a tough task.
Thoresen: “Roy Johansen did a terrific job in making Norway a bona fide hockey country. There aren’t many team sports in which Norway ranks among the top 10-12 in the world. He has put great pressure on the next man behind the bench, which happens to be me. I dare to take on this challenge to take Norwegian hockey and will do what I’ve always done: Try to get a team to perform as well as possible.”
When the results of the Stavanger Oilers are indicative then the future of Norwegian hockey will be brighter than ever.