By Risto Pakarinen –

France squeaks by Italy

France outshot Italy 31-24 in the game and dominated the play for long periods at a time but could only beat Italy’s goaltender Andreas Bernard once in regulation time. Stephane da Costa won the game for France with his shot just 26 seconds into the overtime.

Veteran goaltender Cristobal Huet made 23 saves for France.

“I just thought, ‘finally’, when I saw the shot go in,” said France’s Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who picked up an assist to the goal.

“We had several chances but couldn’t capitalize on them but we found a way to win the game. In the Worlds, we’re the underdog but now we had to carry the game and we got a little tired in the second period,” he added.

On the back of the French team practice jerseys it says, “tous ensemble pour 2017”, a call for action for the 2017 World Championship that will be held in Paris and Cologne. Paris will be hosting the tournament for the first time since 1951, and qualifying for the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang in South Korea would certainly help keep the game in the spotlight. 

But for that, they need to win their qualification group in Oslo.

“Four years ago, we only had a couple of days to prepare and found ourselves down by two goals after the first five minutes in our first game. It all comes down to details,” Team France coach Dave Henderson told after the team’s morning skate.

In their first game in Oslo, they looked nervous during the first five minutes but Italy couldn’t score early on and the longer the period went, the more France took over the game. They started to find the opening in Italy’s defense in the neutral zone and could send long passes through it, creating several good chances. However, Andreas Bernard in Italy’s goal was excellent.

Early in the second period, Jordan Perrett received a major penalty for checking from behind when he pushed an Italian defenseman into the glass behind Italy’s net. Halfway through the powerplay, the Kostner brothers found an opening. Simon Kostner passed the puck from the corner to Diego, who took a few strides towards the French net and shot the puck in through Cristobal Huet’s five-hole to give Italy the lead in the game 3.20 into the period.

France could tie the game just 2.20 later when Kevin Hecquefeuille found Florian Chakiachvili open in the slot. Chakiachvili turned and fired the puck past Bernard with a hard wrist shot.

Italy defended with a lot of heart and managed to keep France on the outside, making it easier for Bernard to turn away the shots that came all the way to his net.

“It went according to our plan. They had some great chances in the second period, but we defended really well,” said Italy’s goaltender Bernard. 

France never got the big push it would have needed and the game ended in a 1-1 tie in regulation time. The 3-on-3 overtime was just 27 seconds old when da Costa fired his shot topshelf, ending the game

“It’s the win that counts, I don’t think this [lost point] will matter, especially if we keep our focus in the next game,” said Bellemare.

Kazakhstan shocks the hosts

It was supposed to be a big Norwegian party at the old Jordal Amfi but apaprently, nobody told told Kazakhstan that and they pushed the hosts to their heels. In the last 1.17 Norway rallied back from 3-1 to tie the game and take it to OT. 

In the first shift of the 3-on-3 overtime, though, Kazakhstan’s Brandon Bochenski scored the game-winner. 

“It’s in the details. They played a good game and capitalized on their chances,” said Norway’s captain Ole-Kristian Tollefsen. 

Norway outshot Kazakhstan 9-5 in the first period, out-chanced them 5-0 and dominated the game for long periods at a time but Kazakhstan – whose team consists of only Barys Astana’s players – played smart and kept Norway on the outside, blocking the shots from the point and let goaltender Vitali Kolesnik take care of the rest. 

“We controlled the puck, but there were too many puck races, and they had practically a five-man box in front of the net,” said Norway’s defenseman Jonas Holos. 

Norway’s first line with Patrick Thoresen – son of head coach Petter Thoresen -, Anders Bastiansen, and Mats Zuccarello carried the play and created several chances but couldn’t beat Kolesnik. 

Whatever plans Norway had for the second, they surely didn’t include Kazakhstan scoring but that’s what happened. Just 1.23 into the period Yevgeny Rymarev went around Norway’s net, and passed it behind his back, fooling both the Norwegian defenseman in front of the net and goaltender Lars Haugen so that Roman Starchenko saw nothing but the net and could score easily. 

“It was unfortunate that they got the first goal and that we had to chase them,” Holos said. 

Norway paid it back, though, 2.25 later when Bastiansen sent a backhanded pass to Mats Zuccarello who ied the game with a wrist shot from a sharp angle. 

Norway outshot Kazakhstan 20-10 in the second period, and except for the early Kazakh powerplay, the puck stayed mostly in the Kazakhstan zone. However, at 11.27 into the period, Nikita Ivanov won a faceoff in Norway’s zone, sent the puck to Kevin Dallman at the point, and his shot floated in through a lot of traffic in front of Haugen. 

Three minutes later Starchenko scored his second of the night when he won a race to the puck and his wrister from a sharp angle found its way to the back of the net. Norway had their chance to get back into the game thanks to two Kazakhstan penalties at the end of the period, but they couldn’t beat Kolesnik. 

The hosts got another powerplay opportunity to start the third period, but Norway couldn’t figure out a way to get to the best scoring areas even when Kazakhstan had just four skaters on the ice. Norway was 0-for-4 on powerplay tonight. 

Six minutes into the period, Kolesnik hurt his leg making a save. He left the ice in obvious pain and Dmitri Malgin took his place between the pipes. 

Then Norway got into some penalty trouble, and Kazakhstan go to play a minute and 50 seconds with a two-man advantage but couldn’t extend their lead.

With 1.17 remaining, Holos made it a one-goal game with a slap shot from the point. Then, with 14 secinds remaining, Bastiansen re-directed Zuccarello’s hard pass to the back of the net to tie the game. 

Then, just a few minutes later, Norway came crashing down from the highest of highs.

“Of course, first there was the enormous happiness and then a minute later, the biggest disappointment. But we still have a good atmosphere in the dressing room,” Holos said. 

Jordal Amfi, the arena, was originally built for the 1952 Olympics, as an outdoor arena, and it’s served Norwegian hockey well and the idea was to have the arena do one last Olympic favor by sending this team to the 2018 Olympics before it’s demolished in 2017. 

The Norwegian Olympic dreams aren’t dead yet, but the wrecking ball is already waiting outside.

“We have a new game tomorrow, let’s see what happens in the other games,” Tollefsen said. 

“We’ll try to win our game and then hope that France cam take points from Kazakhstan so that we’ll have a final against France on Sunday,” Holos added.