AMIENS, France – Norway’s U20 national team will return to the top division next year after going undefeated in five games on its way to winning the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division I Group A in Amiens.
The key victory for the Norwegians came against runners-up Belarus on the third day of the round-robin tournament. With both teams undefeated through two going into the game, Norway outlasted the Belarusians 4-2. Forward Andreas Heier scored two goals in the opening frame, while teammate Jonas Knutsen added a second period power play goal and an empty netter in the third to seal the game for Norway.
The boys in blue and red followed up the win with a close 3-2 overtime victory over plucky Denmark. The Danes held a 2-1 lead midway through the third period, but on a two-man advantage Knutsen scored the tying goal with eight minutes remaining. Johan Karterud then finished Denmark off at 3:23 of overtime, scoring the game winner assisted by Mattias Nørstebø.
A 5-1 victory over Slovenia on the last day of competition allowed the Norwegians to finish the tournament with an unblemished record. The team will be promoted to the top division for the 2014 season, and will compete in the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship in Malmö, Sweden.
The U20 tournament victory was the first for head coach Orjan Lovdal, a former player for the Norwegian senior national team who competed at the 1984, 1988, and 1992 Winter Olympics. Lovdal had previously coached the U18 team for four seasons.
Andreas Heir had himself a strong tournament for Norway, tallying nine points in five games to finish second on the scoring table behind Belarus’ Artur Gavrus. The Danish trio of Oliver Bjorkstrand, Sebastian Ehlers and Thomas Spelling rounded out the top-five scoring leaders.
Gavrus was also selected as Directorate Best Forward, along with Denmark’s Bjørn Uldall (Best Defenceman) and Slovenia’s Luka Gracnar (Best Goaltender).
The tournament, held in Amiens, France, was unkind to the hosts. France went winless through five games and was outscored 28-9. The French will be relegated to the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division I Group B.
Norway now returns to the top division after two years, the eighth time that the country will compete at the highest U20 level. The country’s best result in the top division came at the 1990 U20 World Championship in Finland, where the team finished in sixth place. In 2011, Geir Hoff’s squad went 1W-5L in Buffalo, so the Norwegians will be hoping to get a better result next year in Malmö.