U.S. downs Norway
by Lucas Aykroyd|29 MAY 2021
The U.S. storms Norway's crease during a 2-1 win at Arena Riga on Saturday at the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.
photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
The U.S. extended its winning streak to four games with a 2-1 victory over Norway at Arena Riga on Saturday. Goalie Jake Oettinger earned the win with 22 saves.

Tage Thompson had a goal and an assist and Conor Garland also scored for the Americans. Ken Andre Olimb got a late third-period goal to make it close for Norway.

"We got down to the wire in the end, and good push by Norway," said Thompson. "Our expectation is gold, you don’t expect anything less. That’s what we came here for."

The result eliminates Norway from quarter-finals contention. The Norwegians, with five points, have one game remaining against Kazakhstan on Monday.

"We had a goal to try to make the playoffs," said Norway's Matthias Trettenes, who had a hat trick in the 4-1 win over Italy. "That didn’t happen, but we still came out today and gave it a good chance. We’ll keep moving forward and develop as a team.

With two games left against Germany on Monday and Italy on Tuesday, the Americans are in good shape heading into the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship playoffs. They have 12 points in Group B.

"Norway played a great game," said U.S. coach Jack Capuano. "They were as advertised. They're quick, they move the puck. I thought it was an exceptional hockey game. It could have went either way. But, you know, moving forward, we're just gonna have to play a little bit more high-percentage game against a good Germany team."

On balance, it's been an impressively consistent run so far for the young Americans, who are making the most of their experience in Riga. Per USA Hockey: “Five players have yet to make their NHL debuts while another 10 have played in 90 or fewer NHL games.”
Norway vs United States - 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship
NOR USA 29 MAY 2021
Oettinger shone in his first start in net. He previously appeared in relief in the 5-1 U.S. win over Canada after starter Anthony Stolarz was injured. In 2020, the 22-year-old Dallas Stars prospect became the first goalie in the NHL’s post-expansion era (1967-68) onward to debut in the conference finals when he appeared against Vegas.

For Norway, Henrik Haukeland returned between the pipes less than 24 hours after earning his first 2021 win in the 4-3 shootout victory over host Latvia.

Final shots favoured the U.S. 27-23. The U.S has allowed just six goals in its first five games at these Worlds.

After Norway got caught with an unfortunate too many men on the ice penalty, Garland opened the scoring on the power play, converting his own rebound at 10:30. It was another positive indicator. The U.S. power play was only 2-for-12 entering this game.

"I just got a fortunate bounce there," said Garland, who had 12 goals and 27 assists for Arizona in the abbreviated 2020-21 NHL season. "Good job by [captain Justin Abdelkader] there, taking his eyes away and he just didn't see the rebound. Those are kind of the ones you're going to need to score in this tournament on the power play. There's not a lot of room outside. Gotta get to the dirty areas, the blue paint, try to get a greasy one."

The Norwegians came out more aggressively in the second period. Max Krogdahl was sent off for roughing at 2:59 after a wrestling match that saw 2018 U.S. Olympian Ryan Donato lose his helmet and crash to the ice.

On the ensuing power play, the U.S. pressed hard. In a goalmouth scramble, Norwegian D-man Emil Lilleberg tried to prevent the puck from crossing the goal line by pinching his heels together on the disc. Garland came sliding in and Lilleberg actually somersaulted in his effort to keep it out. The play was extensively video-reviewed by the officials, who ruled no goal.

Thompson made it 2-0 at 7:12, using his great reach to corral the puck and convert his own rebound after Donato carried it into the slot. The Buffalo Sabres forward, who had been sidelined with an upper-body injury, was impactful throughout in his return to the lineup along with defenceman Adam Clendening.

During a mid-game Norwegian man advantage, Oettinger robbed Mats Rosseli Olsen, who had the goalie down and at his mercy, with a great glove save on an elevated backhander.

With just over a minute left in the middle frame, Kevin Rooney narrowly missed giving the U.S. a three-goal lead when he broke in unimpeded and zinged one off the goal post.

In the third period, Norway cranked up the intensity on a power play with under 10 minutes remaining, but the Americans weathered the storm with great box play and a willingness to sacrifice their bodies.

"I think the biggest thing that we now have to recognize is that's five penalties in back-to-back games," Capuano said. "So we just have to be a little bit more disciplined as we move forward here."

The U.S. couldn't stop Ken Andre Olimb from snaring the puck in front of Oettinger and lifting a quick backhander home with 5:33 left. Olimb also scored a shorthanded goal in the win over Latvia.

Norwegian coach Petter Thoresen pulled Haukeland for the extra attacker with 1:36 left, but despite facing a furious flurry, the Americans hung on.

Dallas phenom Jason Robertson saw his points streak end at four games. But of course, the main thing for the Americans was gettting the three points. Their quest to win their first gold medal at an IIHF World Championship tournament since 1933 continues.

Looking forward to playing Germany, U.S. assistant captain Colin Blackwell said: "Obviously, they're a really good team. And for the whole tournament, they've kind of been ahead of us. So we're climbing the ladder here and trying to catch them in the standings. It's a huge game for us, a huge test."

The one and only time Norway defeated the U.S. at the Worlds was 3-0 on 9 March, 1951 in Paris. Norway peaked there with a fourth-place finish.
Norway vs United States - 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship