The Norwegian players celebrate a goal in their game against Italy. Photo: Foto Norden/Magnus Eikli
Norway beats Italy, plays for top spot on Sunday
Norway stays alive thanks to a convincing 4-1 win over Italy. The hosts play for the group top spot in a game against France on Sunday.
Norway came to the game with a chip on their shoulder after a frustrating loss to Kazakhstan last night. While Italy put up a good fight, there was never any question of who was going to win the game. Norway did, 4-1, while outshooting Italy 35-13 in the game.
Patrick Thoresen picked up two assists, Mathis Olimb scored one and added an assist for Norway.
"We played a good game and [Lars[ Haugen was good in net," said Norway's Mats Zuccarello who is tied for lead in tournament scoring with three points in two games.
"But we have to play a more complete game against France, more like we did in the first period today, and not like we played in the second," he added.
Italy and Norway had faced off eleven times in the Olympics and the World Championships. Norway has won six of the games, Italy two. Also, Italy’s latest win came twenty years ago in Austria. Since then, Norway hasn’t lost any of their six games against Italy.
And they didn’t lose on home ice in Jordal Amfi, either. Instead, they cruised to a fairly easy x-x win, led by their first line again.
Norway outshot Italy 16-4 in the first period, completely carrying the play from beginning to end. Italy had two powerplay opportunities in the period, but couldn’t convert on them. Instead, after Norway had killed the first penalty, they cycled the puck in the Italian zone for a long time before Patrick Thoresen’s long pass across the zone found Mathis Olimb in front of the net. Olimb deked to his backhand, and then shot the puck in from close range with a wrist shot at 8.35.
With 1.21 remaining in the period, Norway capitalized on their powerplay opportunity, with Mats Zuccarello as the conductor. He ran the same play as in Norway’s game against Kazakhstan, in which he held on to the puck on top of the circle and then sent a hard pass to the front of the net, to be re-directed in. Tommy Kristiansen did just that, giving Norway a two-goal lead in the game.
The second period was a mixed bag with Norway dominating the game - even though there were more mistakes in their game - but Italy scoring the only goal of the period with 5.09 remaining when Tommaso Traversa played the puck to the front of the net, where Markus Spinell tried to backhand it in, but was stopped by Norway’s goaltender Lars Haugen. Traversa somehow managed to slam the puck in to make it a one-goal game.
Halfway through the third period, Italy had just two shots on goal, but there was tension in the air. Then Norway got another powerplay and while Zuccarello hit the crossbar with a slapshot, Jonas Holos’s thundering slapshot from the point went in, giving the hosts the cushion they wanted. Mathis Olimb picked up an assist, as did his brother Ken Andre Olimb.
"I got a great pass and there was great traffic in front of the net," Holos said of his goal.
"But it was a frustrating game again, when Italy had a five-man box in front of their net. Even if we controlled the game, all it takes is one turnover for them to have a couple of guys going the other way," he said.
With 2.09 remaining, Norway sealed the deal with a powerplay goal. The play was the same as in their first goal, but this time it was Andreas Martinsen who deflected Ken Andre Olimb's pass from the point.
Norway stays alive thanks to their convincing win over Italy. The hosts play for the group top spot in a game against France on Sunday.
"We have to get pucks deep and not hold on to the puck. Our goalie must be good, and we have to make sure we play good defense," Zuccarello said.
The Oslo native is entering the game with mixed emotions as the arena he knows well is about to be demolished in a few months.
"I hope we can finish this off in the perfect way and qualify for the 2018 Olympics," he said.
"But we have [our destiny] in our own hands now," he added.