Norway loves to play the role of spoiler at the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. Last year in Riga, wins over Latvia and Kazakhstan denied both of those teams a chance to advance to the quarter-finals. Today, they beat Austria 5-3, bringing a team coming off a historic win over Czechia just a day earlier back down to earth.
The win – Norway’s first in regulation time this year – gives the team five points after four games, which is temporarily good for fourth place in Group B. The loss keeps Austria at three points with a temporary drop to sixth place.
“It’s a very important victory for us,” said veteran forward Martin Roymark. “It was a game with big stakes to stay in the elite group so we are very happy to win today. It was close when Austria scored at the end there, but we had a bit of luck today and we won. Every tournament is different and this one is really nice to play. We have a lot of young guys so it’s fun to be here.”
Following a narrow loss to Sweden, an overtime loss to the USA and a shootout win over Czechia, the Austrians may have had their sights set on a quarter-final berth for the first time since 1994. But playing their fourth game in five days, they ran up against a determined Norwegian squad. Still, their chances of avoiding relegation remain strong.
“We didn’t do what we said before the game and you can see the result,” said Austrian forward Marco Kasper. “I don’t think (the schedule) is unfair. We just didn’t play the way we wanted. We can beat that team if we play our best but we didn’t do that today. That’s why we lost. The last few games have been good but right now I’m disappointed. It sucks that we lost this game.”
Norway was without captain Mathis Olimb in the game. Mats Rosseli Olsen led the offence with two goals and one assist. Ken-Andre Olimb and Andreas Martinsen each had two assists.
“It’s huge for us since we lost a point against Great Britain, so we needed these three points,” said Rosseli Olsen. “We knew it was a big game and we could really feel the energy on the bench, and everybody stepped up to the challenge.”
Austria had captain Thomas Raffl back but were still without Benjamin Baumgartner, who is likely out for the tournament. Peter Schneider, Ali Wukowits and Dominique Heinrich had two points each.
Norway outshot Austria 25-17 in the game. The score was tied 1-1 after one period and Norway led 3-2 after two. The goals in the first period came less than a minute apart.
Heinrich scored first at 6:48 at the tail end of an Austrian power play. His one-timer from the point through a crowd beat Henrik Haukeland high to the glove side. The Norway bench challenged the play for goaltender interference as Raffl cut in front of the goalie as the shot came in, but after a review, the goal was allowed to stand and Norway was assessed a bench-minor penalty for delay of game.
However, Norway tied the game shorthanded just 45 seconds later. Olimb got the puck out of the zone past the Austrian point man and Rosseli Olsen pounced on the opportunity, using his speed to beat everybody to the puck in the neutral zone, then skated in alone on David Kickert and beat him between the yellow pads.
“It was perfect timing,” Rosseli Olsen described. “I play the PK for my club team (Frolunda Gothenburg in Sweden) and we always feel like if we’ve got a chance to get a breakaway or make a play, we want to do that. So that’s a mindset that I bring over here if the chance is there but we don’t play (shorthanded) looking to score.”
The Norwegians started the second period on the power play and took their first lead 55 seconds in – one second after the expiration of the penalty. Defenceman Johannes Johannesen drove to the net with the puck and as he tried to cut across the front of the crease, was cross-checked by Philipp Wimmer into Kickert. Martinsen then flipped the puck over the fallen Austrian goalie. This resulted in another challenge for goaltender interference – this time from Austria – but the result was the same, and Norway went right back to the power play.
Austria tied it back up on a power play of their own, after Max Krogdahl shot the puck over the glass from the Norwegian zone. Lukas Haudum worked a give-and-go with Clements Unterweger, then fired a shot through a double-screen that beat Haukeland short side.
Norway regained the lead at 31:44 when a shot by Roymark hit the stick of an Austrian defender and went into the top corner of the net.
The Austrians only trailed by a goal but their chances of winning were dealt a serious blow with 17:26 to play when Wimmer was assessed a match penalty for elbowing Erik Salsten in the face. During the course of the next five minutes, each team was assessed a minor penalty and Norway was up two men when Rosseli Olsen – himself released from the box just 13 seconds earlier – scored his second of the game by converting Martinsen’s centring pass.
With 3:48 to play, Schneider brought Austria back to within one when he snuck in from the point, undetected by the Norwegian defence, and buried a juicy rebound after Wukowits’ point shot.
“The effort was there but I thought we turned it up a little bit too late, maybe we waited too long,” said Heinrich. “Our first period wasn’t good enough and at the end maybe it was one or two goals we were short. Sometimes that’s the game.”
Austria pressed hard for the equalizer and Kasper had a great chance, but Martin Ronnild sealed the victory with an empty-net goal with 12.8 seconds to play.