KOSICE – Patrick Thoresen (Salavat Yulayev Ufa, RUS) loves his country, but he loves his family too. Thoresen spends the hockey season living in the Russian city of Ufa; his wife and two children remain in Norway. Because of this, he’s spent 20 of the last 22 months away from his family and he decided that his priority right now had to be to spend time at home.
Thoresen, who has played in four World Championships and one Olympic Games for his country, led the team in scoring last year. His absence will particularly leave a big hole in Norway’s power play. The good news for the Polar Bears is that several of their other top players will be in Slovakia, giving them a good chance of avoiding relegation.
Pal Grotnes (Stjernen, NOR) will play in his sixth World Championship for Norway, with last year being his best yet as he finished with a 2.81 GAA and was in goal for all three of Norway’s wins. His finest moments in Germany came in one-goal victories over the Czechs in the preliminary round and against the Swiss in the qualifying round. The biggest thing he fights if he’s having an off night is controlling rebounds. That said, if he can play as well as he did last year, the Norwegians will be in decent shape between the pipes.
Jonas Holos (Colorado, NHL) is the best defenceman Norway has. He played 39 games in the NHL this season for Colorado, but was sent down to their minor league team in Cleveland after the NHL season ended. His availability depends on how deep Cleveland goes into the AHL playoffs. Ole-Kristian Tollefsen (MODO, SWE) will, once again, see a lot of minutes for Norway. He’s the most physical defenceman on the team and will play close to 30 minutes per game. Two other returnees from last year’s team are Alexander Bonsaksen (MODO, SWE) and Lars Ostli (Storhamar, NOR).
Norway will struggle to score goals; that’s nothing new and a common issue with all of the teams ranked at their level. Although they’ll miss Thoresen, a couple of their other top scorers will be there, including Mats Zuccarello Aasen (New York Rangers, NHL), coming off his first NHL season with the Rangers, and Anders Bastiansen (Färjestad, SWE). Zuccarello didn’t see much ice time during the Rangers’ first round playoff exit; he should be well rested. Bastiansen is coming off a very good post-season run, where he led Swedish Elitserien champions Färjestad with six playoff goals.
Roy Johansen is one of the most respected men in Norwegian hockey; he is coaching the Polar Bears for the sixth time at the WM. He also played in two World Championships and two Olympic Games. Johansen’s best finish as a coach was in 2008, when Norway finished in eighth place. His teams are generally disciplined and well prepared.
For a team in Norway’s category, it’s all about avoiding relegation.
“It’s always tough; there’s nothing new there,” says Johansen. “We have good skaters, good team spirit and there is a good feeling.”
The quarter-finals would be a massive accomplishment. More realistically, ninth to eleventh place is where Norway might finish.