Surprise hockey win for Frisk Asker
In controversial game, underdog team wins first Norwegian Championship in 17 years
Jo Christian Weldingh
The atmosphere was electric in Asker Arena when Petter Kristiansen scored Frisk Asker’s winning goal, two minutes into overtime. Frisk Asker took the title, or bøtta (bucket) as it’s ironically called in Norwegian Ice Hockey, home once again, for the first time since 2002, after beating Storhamar 3-2 in the sixth game of the finals.
Fifth-seed Frisk Asker surprisingly reached all the way to the final after overtaking fourth-seed Lillehammer and top-seed Vålerenga in the quarter- and semi-final, respectively. Then, the team took down second-seed and defending champion Storhamar.
The game was already controversial, even before the first puck was dropped, as the referee felt forced to withdraw from the game after threats toward both him and his family.
Storhamar also suffered from having their big star and captain, former NHL-player, Patrick Thoresen, injured.
Already an hour before the game started, the stands were packed, and after only five minutes of play the home crowd got something to cheer for when Mats Frøshaug scored Frisk Asker’s first goal.
Storhamar dominated most of the game from that point but were not effective when it came to getting the puck into the back of the net. They had two goals disallowed in this game after having one overturned in the fifth game after a 12-minute review. When it neared the end of the third period, Frisk Asker led 2-1. Mere minutes away from winning in regular time, a late goal from Storhamar’s Lars Østli forced the game into overtime.
After a controversial late penalty, Storhamar had to start the first overtime period with only four players on the ice, which contributed strongly to Frisk Asker’s early goal.
After the game, both the home crowd and the Frisk Asker players were ecstatic.
“This means everything. It’s my 16th season, and I have never won a championship before,” match-winner Kristiansen told NRK with tears streaming down his face. “This is the reason we train day after day, year after year; it’s just insane!”
Frisk Asker were not favorites heading into this year’s playoff, having only placed fifth in the regular season.
“I don’t think anyone really believed in us,” Frisk Asker legend Anders Bastiansen said. “I feel like we stole energy from the other teams and look how far that took us.”
Bastiansen was also a part of the Frisk Asker squad that won the championship in 2002. He came back to the Asker team in 2015 after 10 years in Swedish hockey.
Frisk Asker coach Jan André Aasland became the youngest coach to ever win a Norwegian Championship at 29. He took over the team at mid-season after several bad performances. When asked about his role in the big turnaround, he understated his own influence.
“I haven’t done that much, to be honest,” he said. “I have mostly been focusing on improving the team’s defensive structure, and I think the team bought that concept. Other than that, I might have brought some joy and enthusiasm back into the squad.”
The Norwegian Ice Hockey Championship, or playoffs, is contested by the eight best teams in the league following the conclusion of the regular season. There are three rounds, each played as a best-of-seven series; the winner advances to the next round, while the loser is eliminated from the tournament.
Jo Christian Weldingh grew up in Lillehammer, Norway, and lives in Oslo. He has a bachelor’s degree in archaeology from the University of Oslo and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from BI Norwegian Business School.
This article originally appeared in the May 3, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.