Elverum wins men’s handball champs again
Déjà vu all over again
Jo Christian Weldingh
After beating archrival Arendal in three straight matches, Elverum Handball Club took a sweet revenge by taking home their eighth consecutive Grundigligaen men’s handball playoff title after losing the regular-season league title to Arendal by the smallest possible margin.
Both Arendal and Elverum ended up with 34 points in the league this season, both teams with 16 wins, 2 draws, and 4 losses. Arendal snatched the title, because they had scored one single goal more than the team from Elverum, an outcome that must have left a bitter taste in the mouth of the Elverum players, especially with the intense rivalry that has been going on between these two teams in the last couple of years.
The league was decided in an intense final game between the two teams earlier this spring that ended up a 24-24 draw. Elverum scored the first five goals, leading 5-0 after five minutes of play.
As close as the fight for the league title was, in the playoff finals, Elverum dominated completely.
“It feels amazing being the best team when it really counts,” Elverum’s coach, Michael Apelgren, told TV2 after his team had secured the playoff title once more.
In the third and deciding final, May 19, Elverum quickly took control of the game and was leading 15-10 at halftime. Arendal recovered somewhat in the second half and was only one point behind on several occasions, but Elverum never lost control and was able to keep their lead to the final buzzer, winning 31-28, much thanks to their superb goalkeeper, Morten Nergaard.
“It was a perfect finish; we expected this to be the most difficult game, but we showed great fighting spirit when they were about to catch up to us in the second half,” Nergaard told TV2 after the game.
“The people back in Elverum will be seeing some weird stuff tonight,” he continued, grinning from ear to ear, probably talking about the forthcoming title celebration. Nergaard also scored six goals over the nine playoff games.
With five minutes to go, in a desperate attempt to catch Elverum’s three-goal lead, Arendal changed their tactics to a more offensive style, having their defenders go man-on-man trying to steal the ball, but it didn’t bear any fruit. Elverum won the best-out-of-five-games series 3-0.
“We do our best, we fight as hard as we can, but the margins are not on our side today. Over the three games, Elverum has clearly been the best team,” Arendal player Sondre Paulsen told TV2.
Lukas Sandell, Håkon Bratvold Ekren, and Tine Poklar each scored five goals for Elverum, while Martin Lindell put six balls in the net and Paulsen five for Arendal.
While it was the eighth consecutive playoff title for Elverum, it was the third consecutive second place for Arendal.
Elverum took Game 1, 30-26 behind seven goals from Sigvaldi Guðjónsson and five by Magnus Fredriksen. Lindell scored seven goals and Paulsen six for Arendal. Elverum took Game 2 a little more comfortably, 30-22. Guðjónsson led the way with seven goals, while Simen Holland Pettersen added six. Arendal was led by Paulsen with five goals.
With the playoff win, Elverum Handball Club has secured a place in next year’s Champions League for the fourth time in a row. Last season, they made it past the group stages for the first time.
This article originally appeared in the June 14, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American.