Canada’s much-decorated national ice hockey team held off a late Norwegian comeback to win 3-2 in their International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship Qualifying Round match in Slovakia on Saturday.
The Canadians dominated the match right up until midway through the third period, when they were winning 3-0 and cruising to victory. Two late Norwegian goals by Ken Andre Olimb and Marius Holtet nonetheless made for a dramatic, tense finish, in which Canada managed to hold on for a much-anticipated win.
The Norwegians have been enjoying a much better than expected tournament so far, with impressive wins over Austria, Switzerland and Sweden, and a good performance against the USA, that have taken the international ice hockey scene by surprise.
It took 16 minutes in the first period for Canada to open the scoring through Jason Spezza. They doubled their lead midway through the second period through John Taveres before James Neal added a third halfway through the third period during a period of good Norwegian pressure. Norway continued to press after their opponent’s third goal and the team was rewarded with two goals from Olimb and Holtet.
Once again, goaltender Lars Haugen received plaudits for his performance and was described by many as the man of the match, despite letting in three goals. Without Haugen, Norway surely would have conceded even more in a game that was decided by the clear difference in class between the teams. The Norwegians will however be buoyed by coming so close to pulling off a result against one of the giants of international ice hockey.
The result was hardly unexpected for Norway, who will still secure a place in the Quarter Finals if they now beat France in the final match of the Qualifying Round group on Monday. Even a loss can be good enough for Norway if other results in the group go the right way. Forward Morten Ask, speaking to Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), nonetheless assured fans that the team would “not take the results for the other teams for granted.” France themselves cannot progress under any circumstances after some disappointing results.
The Norwegians also revealed that they had booked tickets home for the day after the Qualifying Round before the tournament, having predicted a typically disappointing championship. The chief executive of the Norwegian ice hockey federation, Petter Salsten, told NRK that “we have chosen our return date beforehand” because “we historically have only been in one quarter final.” He said it was “not a problem” to have to cancel the tickets if the team made the Quarter Finals.
“We will give everything to reach the Quarter Finals,” Norwegian coach Roy Johansen promised. The French head coach, Dave Henderson, nonetheless warned that his side would not make things easy for the Norwegians, who he praised as “a very strong team.” “Even if we are knocked out, we will do everything to beat Norway,” Henderson promised.