STAVANGER, Norway – The song played in the bus trip towards the airport was carefully selected. Wearing golden helmets the whole team sang along “Viva Las Vegas” as if Elvis Presley had never left the arena.
The Stavanger Oilers won their second ever Norwegian league title and have a trip to Las Vegas and pocket money to play with coming up as a bonus.
Lars-Peder Nagel’s put a nail on Lørenskog IK’s coffin with a close range tip in early in the third period. The Oilers managed to hang on their 2-1 lead to seal the best-of-seven series 4-2.
Despite heading into the season as big favourites for the title, the Stavanger team was extremely jubilant having fulfilled their main goal this season. The burden of being the team-to-beat all year long carried heavy on their shoulders.
“We felt that everyone outside Stavanger was against us,” match winner Nagel claimed afterwards. “Therefore it feels wonderful to win it all at the end.”
One of the major forces behind Stavanger’s success is Tore Christiansen. The team owner has invested a large sum of money in the team and it paid off this season.
After having dominated the regular season with 38 wins in 45 games, Stavanger did not slow down in the playoffs. Their quarter finals match-up with Rosenborg IHK was blatantly unbalanced outscoring them 32-5 in four games.
While the semi-finals provided tougher opposition in Lillehammer IK, the Oilers marched on perfectly booking their tickets to the Get Ligaen finals in the minimum number of games once again.
The playoff final opening game against Lørenskog, however, showed even a dominant team can be beaten. The hosts silenced a packed Siddishallen Arena and took a 3-1 victory with them. Stavanger immediately struck winning two games in a row, but realized Lørenskog weren’t to be pushed over as the series was tied two apiece after four games.
The all-important game five could have swung both ways, but in the end it was a Christian-Dahl Andersen power-play goal 10 minutes into overtime that earned Stavanger the win and the opportunity to win their second title after having been crowned champions back in 2010.
Game 6 did not start well for Stavanger as Joacim Sundelius scored perhaps the goal of the season for Lørenskog. The slick-skating forward drove up the puck from his own defensive zone and slalomed through the complete Stavanger team before rounding goaltender Ruben Smith in a way that would make Yevgeni Malkin proud.
But where Lørenskog could not take any advantage of seven power-play situations, Stavanger was lethal with the extra man. First Martin Strandfeldt fired home to tie the game midway the second period and five minutes into the third period Lars-Peder Nagel scored one of his most memorable goals of his career.
As team owner Christiansen entered the ice in a golden suit, he was seemingly touched by the victory.
“We’ve got a couple of star players, but they were willing to sacrifice themselves for this team.” He is convinced that this success will carry on in the future. “We played a very good team in the final and I’m convinced these two teams can dominate Norwegian hockey in the next few years.”
Goal scorer Martin Strandfeldt was also seizing the moment. ”On paper Lørenskog is just as good as we are, but I felt we outsmarted them. Right now I don’t feel too much joy yet, moreover I feel relieved.”
Fact is that the joy will not stop once all celebrations in Stavanger have ended. Tore Christiansen had promised his players a trip to Las Vegas and 250,000 Norwegian crowns (€33,000).
Strandfeldt: “I‘m really looking forward to Las Vegas, but let’s first celebrate this title for a whole week at home.”
When Strandfeldt will enter the ice again, he and his team mates can do so in a brand new arena. While the Oilers were digging for gold in Lørenskog, reconstruction works in Stavanger are already in full swing.
As the celebrations came to and end in the coastal city centre, the sound of Elvis faded away across the ocean. Viva Las Vegas, Viva Stavanger.