Norway’s experience in North America at the 2008 World Championships was an eventful one. With hard work and some favorable bounces of the puck, Norway qualified for the playoff round. It was one of the proudest moments in Norwegian hockey history that moved team consultant George Kingston when he spoke of their accomplishments once the Qualifying Round concluded. Norway has since qualified for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver by beating Denmark 5-3 in the Group G Olympic Qualifier. In a short period of time, Norway has made impressive strides in international competition.
Pal Grotnes has been the mainstay in goal for the Norwegian side. Like In six games, Grotnes won two and posted a goals against average that was a full goal higher than 2007 (4.51). Grotnes logged 346:02 minutes of time in goal. Grotnes spent the 2008-09 season as the starting goaltender for Stjernen Hockey of the Norwegian Eliteserien. Grotnes started and won all three games at the recently completed Group G Olympic Qualification tournament in Oslo. Andre Lysenstoen and Ruben Smith both saw action in Halifax as each played all or parts of one game.
Mats Trygg led Norway in scoring with a goal and five points. For as long as Norway has been in the top division of World Championship play, Trygg has been among the team’s offensive leaders. A fluid skater and exceptional passer, Trygg reminds some of Finnish national team stalwart Petteri Nummelin. Team captain Tommy Jakobsen was a steadying influence especially as the games had more meaning. Jakobsen is unflappable and an unusually honest athlete. Former NHL defenceman Anders Myrvold led the team with 22 penalty minutes. Norwegian defencemen played tough, scrappy hockey, unwilling to back down to anyone. Blueliners accounted for 62 penalty minutes at the 2008 World Championships.
Patrick Thoresen is the emerging offensive leader on this team. At the Olympic qualifier, Thoresen teamed with Tore Vikingstad and Per-Age Skroder for a combined 15 points in three games. Thoresen lead the team in goals with four and tied Vikingstad in scoring with six points. Thoresen’s presence will take some of the pressure of Morten Ask to be the main goal scorer. Ask scored three goals in Halifax last year. Anders Bastiansen contributed five assists and six points at the 2008 World Championships. Norway will need a consistent and capable attack from its top lines if they are to succeed in Kloten.
Roy Johansen signed a two-year contract extension prior to the 2008 World Championships and promptly led Norway to its most productive showing to date with an 8th place finish. Johansen followed that up by leading Norway to its first Olympic qualification since 1994 in February. Johansen has built a team whose confidence is growing. He understands the strengths and limitations of his team and manages them effectively. Assistant Coach Sjur Robert Nilsen is another former player who represented the Norwegian national team 43 times as a player.
Norway faces a tough time against Finland and the Czech Republic. This will set up a grudge match against Denmark on April 29th in the last game of the Preliminary Round. Given that Norway beat the Danes to qualify for the Olympics, the tensions should be high for that contest.