Final olympic qualification tournament 2016 at Jordal Amfi, Oslo Photo: Foto Norden AS / Arve Bjeraasholmen
Norstebo's late goal gives ticket to Korea
Mats Zuccarello's Norway will play in the 2018 Olympics in Korea, thanks to their 2-1 win over France. Zuccarello led the tournament in scoring.
Norway will play in the 2018 Olympics, thanks to their 2-1 win over France. Norway's big hero was Mattias Norstebo who scored the game-winner with 2.29 remaining in the game.
"This is one of the best wins in my career, for sure. It's an unbelievable feeling. I grew up down here and this was probably my last game at this rink so it's a little emotional," said Mats Zuccarello who scored Norway's first goal in the game.
"Playing in the Olympics is the bggest thing you can do with your national team so to qualify there is amazing," he added.
France's captain Laurent Meunier was frustrated with the number of penalties his team took, even if it was a close game.
"But, no win," he concluded. And with that, nothing.
France did get into penalty trouble in the second and third period and while they defended well, Norway used their last chance. With nine seconds on the clock of Floran Douay's penalty, Norstebo lifted the puck into France's net after a mad scramble in front of the goal when France's goaltender Cristobal Huet couldn't hold on to the puck.
The table was set for a hockeyfest at the soldout Jordal Amfi in Oslo. The winner of the game between Norway and France would qualify for the Olympics and while both teams had bene pushed in their first games in the tournament, the final was expected to be a close one.
"The atmosphere was fantastic, a soldout crowd, we don't get that often in Norway so that was wonderful," said Norway's captain Ole-Kristian Tollefsen.
Norway is ranked 11th in the world, it had the home crowd, and it had NHLer Mats Zuccarello in a good mid-season form. France is ranked 14th, they hoped that the home crowd would make Norwegians nervouse, and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, their NHLer and as of tomorrow, Zuccarello’s teamnate on the World Cup of Hockey, had also shown to be ready to carry his team.
The fans of both teams could easily find reasons for hope but there was also that “on the other hand” to which there was only one answer and that was to play the game.
The first period was scoreless and just as close as could be expected. Norway controlled the game during the first half of the period, France took over in the latter half. Both teams had their chances, especially on powerplay, but the importance of the game also showed in careless penalties in the offensive zone. Teddy da Costa took a slashing minor behind the Norwegian net and Tommy Kristiansen a goalie interference penalty when he collided with France’s goaltender Cristobal Huet.
Less than two minutes into the second period, France’s caotain Laurent Meunier sent a long pass meant for Yorick Treille, but Norway’s captain Ole-Kristian Tollefsen got his stick on the puck. However, he couldn’t stop the puck and it ended up at Treille’s tape. He faked a shot and waited for Lars Haugen in Norway’s goal to hit the ice before firing the puck top shelf to give France a lead in the game at 1.49.
Five minutes later, Norway’s first line stepped up. The French turned the puck over in their own zone, when Patrick Thoresen intercepted a breakout pass at the halfboards. He quickly passed it to Mats Zuccarello who found himself alone with Huet. He made a nice deke and then fired the puck upstairs, tying the game.
"It was a great pass from Patrick, and I almost panicked, I wanted to pass but the goalie bit hard on my deke so it went in," Zuccarello said.
After the goal, Norway took over the game completely, aided by da Costa brothers taking penaltie for unsportsmanlike conduct; Teddy a minor, Stephane a major.
And Norway thought they had capitalized on it. With one second remaining on Teddy Da Costa’s penalty, Jonas Holos fired a shot from the point, Huet left a rebound which Thoresen batted in from mid-air but the goal was disallowed after a video review. If anything, it got Norway even more fired up, while the French couldn’t stay out of the penalty box – which was also a sign of the fact that they were often a half a step behind the Norwegians.
And then Norstebo, 21, put the final nail in France's coffin.
"We never give up. The whole team played well today, this was a win for the collective," Tollefsen said.
Ad for Norway, it was a nice farewell to the 1952 Olympic arena.
"For someone like me who's grown up in Oslo, to get to play in front of a soldout crowd at Jordal was the perfect finish," said Zuccarello.