Forward looks forward to challenge in front of home fans
When Norway’s coach Petter Thoresen wants to make things happen - get a key goal or change the pace of the game - he starts to send his first line back on the ice a little more often. Over the boards go Mats Zuccarello, Anders Bastiansen, and Patrick Thoresen, the coach’s son.
And he’s right to do so, of course, considering the line has compiled a total of eight points in the first two games of the Olympic qualification tournament in Oslo.
“I think our line is a good combination of everything. Mats, as everybody knows, is a very skilled player who can make plays everywhere, Bastiansen is the centre who maybe thinks about defence more than we do, and he helps Mats and me by doing a great job in front of the opposing team’s net,” Thoresen says.
Thoresen has three assists in the tournament, Zuccarello and Bastiansen have scored one goal each but they have had chances for more. Both Kazakhstan and Italy made Norway work hard for their goals by blocking shots and keeping the Norwegians on the outside.
“It’s been a little frustrating with the other team defending with five skaters in front of the net, and it’s been difficult to get pucks into the slot. I think it may have surprised us a little, we got desperate and fell right in Kazakhstan’s trap,” Thoresen says.
However, despite losing that game to Kazakhstan in overtime, Norway now has their destiny in their own hands. By beating France on Sunday - regardless of how, whether in regulation, overtime, or in a shootout - they secure a spot in the 2018 Olympic Games in PyeongChang, Korea.
“I think the two best teams are playing for the spot, and this is what we have been preparing for the entire team. This is where we want to be,” Thoresen says.
If there’s one trap Thoresen and his teammates aren’t going to fall into, it’s being over-confident. They know they can beat France, but they also know they have to play their best game of the tournament to do so.
“I think it’s a fifty-fifty game, either one can win it. They have good depth on their team, with several players in the leagues in Europe and Russia,” says the 32-year-old, who has two seasons in the NHL and six in the KHL under his belt, in addition to several seasons in the Swedish league. This season, he returned to the Swiss league where he plays for the ZSC Lions Zurich.
While the French hope that a home crowd in a sold-out arena will add pressure on the Norwegian team, Thoresen thinks the home fans will be an advantage.
“A sold-out Jordal Amfi is exactly where we want to be,” he says.
The arena, built for the 1952 Olympics as an outdoor arena, and retrofitted with a roof in 1971, will be torn down in early 2017 to give way for a new, modern arena. The tournament is the old Jordal’s last dance with the Norwegian national team, and especially for players from the Oslo region, the arena brings back a lot of memories.
Thoresen’s not one of them.
“We haven’t talked about the arena but in the back of our minds we know this is the last show here and we hope that we can make it a memorable one,” he says.
There’s one thing that has already made the tournament a memorable one for Thoresen, though. It’s the fact that his father, Petter, is Norway’s head coach.
“It was a little strange in the beginning. Last time he was my coach I was 15 or 16 but it’s worked fine here,” he says.
While the other players have different nicknames for Thoresen, his father keeps things simple on the bench.
“He calls me Patrick,” says Patrick.
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