Day: November 17, 2018

World Juniors: Norway Junior Hockey News

By Kerry Jackson –

Norway doesn’t have a hockey tradition like its Arctic Circle neighbors Sweden and Finland. It’s still a step behind. But it continues to move up. For instance, its U20 men’s national junior team was promoted to Group A of Division I for the 2019 International Ice Hockey Federation’s World Junior Championship.

The Norwegians have been there before. They were promoted in 2013 to the highest level, where they competed in the same division with Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, and Russia, only to be relegated after one year. Norway’s squad was also in Division I Group A in 2017, but was relegated to Group B after winning only once in five games.

There is no single area that Team Norway needs improve on to stay in Group A beyond 2019. It simply needs to compete at a higher level in all aspects of the game.

In winning the Group B gold in 2018, the Norwegians went undefeated, winning three times in regulation and twice in overtime. They scored 18 goals and allowed only five. There was really no flaw to isolate.

The goalies, for instance, could have hardly played any better. Jorgen Hanneborg recorded a 1.26 goals-against average and .944 save percentage in three games, while Jonas Wang Wikstol finished with a 0.50 GAA and .971 save percentage. In 11 games this season with the Lillehammer Ice Hockey Club in the GET-Liagen, Norway’s premier hockey league, Hanneborg has posted a 3.03 GAA and a .902 save percentage. Wikstol has played two games this year with the Stavanger Oilers of the GET-Liagen, where he has a 2.50 GAA and .889 save percentage.

Both are 1999s and should be minding the nets in the 2019 tournament next month.

If Team Norway keeps its goals-against this low, it won’t need to score much. But if offense is needed, Norway will require a performance like the one turned in by 1998 forward Jacob Lundell Noer in the 2018 WJC. He scored four goals and set up six, good for third overall, had a tournament-best +8, and was named his team’s top player.

After Noer, offensive output in the 2018 tournament dropped sharply. No one had more than five points. Forward Martin Ellingsen scored four times and recorded one assist while forward Christoffer Karlsen had a pair of goals and added three assists. Still, only eight players had more points than the pair of 1998s in the WJC.

Ellingsen has not played in North America, but Karlsen has — eight games in the USHL in 2016-17 split between the Tri-City Storm and Sioux Falls Stampede.

This year’s team offensive anchor just might be Morten Skirstad Hodt, a 1999 forward who has three goals and 16 assists in 14 games for Frisk Asker in Norway’s U21 league, and Frisk Asker teammate Sander Hurrod, a 2000 who also has 19 points (10 goals, nine assists).

Other possible offensive contributors include:

Filip Lalande, a 1999 who scored six goals and set up six in 14 games for Valerenga in Norway’s U21 league.

Samuel Solem, six goals, fours assists in 14 games in Sweden’s SuperElit U20 league.

And maybe 1999 defenseman Hakon Engh, who in a dozen games with Storhamar in Norway’s U21 league has three goals, six assists, and is a +15.

Team Norway will open the 2019 tournament against Belarus on Dec. 9.

KHL Players Shine at the CIBC Canada Russia Series

By Romon Solovyov –

For the first time after 2014, the Russians won the Russia Canada Series. This time around, the team led by Valeri Bragin won four matches of six, and the momentum is good in sight of the upcoming World Juniors in Vancouver, BC. KHL players had a crucial role in most of the games and throughout the whole series.

It has been a few years that Bragin’s team wouldn’t play so successfully at the Russia Canada Series, even more so considering that many projected leaders weren’t invited to the event. Players like Vitaly Kravtsov, Grigory Denisenko, and Nikolai Kovalenko instead competed at the U20 Four Nations tournament in the Czech Republic, where they finished second in the standings behind Team Finland.

As it was in most of the recent editions, KHL representatives had a significant role in the team. The team’s top scorer was HC Sochi’s Stepan Starkov. He had two goals and six points in as many games, including a key third-period goal in the last game in the series against the QMJHL Stars to send the game to the overtime, where Dmitri Zavgorodny won the match for Team Russia. It’s not surprising that Starkov was the most productive player in the team, considering that he is the player with the most KHL games in the roster. Starkov played on a line with Ufa’s Pavel Shen and Omsk’s Alexander Yaremchuk. Both players had their impact on the series, although Shen probably looked better thanks to his more significant experience: he already has 12 KHL and 5 VHL games under his belt, while Yaremchuk only has seven with Avangard with limited ice time.

Other forwards were less productive, but this doesn’t mean that they were less useful for the team. Lokomotiv’s Kirill Slepets was very active in most of the games and led Team Russia with 16 shots on goal. He found the net only twice, thus he will need to work on his finalization in sight of the WJC. However, he had an outstanding tournament and made a strong case for himself when it will be the moment to decide for the final roster in December.

With Denisenko – Kravtsov – Kovalenko, and Starkov – Shen – Yaremchuk, Bragin may have two ready troikas for Vancouver. However, other players made a good impression, while some of the Russian players in the CHL may complete the roster.

KHL Forwards on Team Russia: Stepan Starkov (HC Sochi), 6 games, 6 (2+4) points, +2; Pavel Shen (Salavat Yulaev), 6 games, 4 (3+1) points, +1; Ivan Muranov (HC Dynamo), 6 games, 3 (2+1) points, +3; Alexander Yaremchuk (Avangard), 6 games, 3 (1+2) points, +2; Kirill Slepets (Lokomotiv), 6 games, 2 (2+0) points, +1; Nikita Shashkov (Sibir), 5 games, 2 (1+1) points, +3; Bulat Shafigullin (Neftekhimik), 5 games, 1 (1+0) point, -1.

On defense, the team did a great job in containing the Canadian forwards and not giving them much space and dangerous powerplay opportunities. The biggest surprise and one of the best players overall were Metallurg’s Savely Olshansky, who scored the game-winning, overtime goal in the sixth game and finished the tournament as the team’s top scoring defenseman with five points and the second scorer overall. If Olshansky will go on with such a solid game expect Metallurg to call him up more often.

If Olshansky led all Team Russia with a plus-6 rating, the second-best defenseman was Evgeny Kalabushkin, with plus-5. The defenseman is part of the SKA’s system but is yet to debut in the KHL. CSKA’s Alexander Romanov was solid on the blueline, scored one goal and finished the tournament being plus-1.

KHL Defensemen on Team Russia: Savely Olshansky (Metallurg), 6 games, 5 (1+4) points, +6; Alexander Romanov (CSKA), 6 games, 1 (1+0) point, +1; Alexander Lyakhov (Salavat Yulaev), 3 games, 0 points, 0.

In goal, there has been another surprise. Pyotr Kochetkov, who already lined up for HC Sochi in the KHL, won all his three games and somewhat appeared more confident than his colleague Daniil Tarasov. The Ufa goalie won just one game. However, his performances can hardly be considered bad. At this point, it looks like Kochetkov is the prime candidate for being the number one goalie for Team Russia, but in a tournament like the WJC, anything can happen – especially if a goalie like Kirill Ustimenko will be added to the mix.

KHL Goalies on Team Russia: Pyotr Kochetkov (HC Sochi), 3 games, 3 wins, 97,8% saves percentage.

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