Upon arrival in the U.S., Norway's U-18 national team was immediately immersed Minnesota -- a hockey loving state with strong roots to Scandinavia.
Norway's stay, which began on Thursday, Oct. 27, included games against the Austin Bruins of the North American Hockey League and NCAA Division III schools St. Olaf Collage and Augsburg College.
The three games proved difficult for the Norwegians as they lost 4-3 to Austin on Oct. 30, 6-1 to St. Olaf on Nov. 1 and battled tough but were eventually defeated by Augsburg 1-0 on Nov. 2.
Capping off 10-day stay in the Unites States, the Norway U-18 team took the ice as the only international squad in the Bauer National Invitational Tournament hosted by the Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League at New Hope Ice Arena.
In perhaps the highlight of its trip, Norway defeated New England Prep 6-2 in the first round of the tournament on Friday, Nov. 4. Markus Soberg recorded a hat trick and nine other players had at least one point for Norway. Earning the win, Joachim Svendsen made 27 saves for the Norwegians.
Unfortunately, the joy would be short-lived as a 9-1 loss to Shattuck-St. Mary's on Saturday, Nov. 5, knocked Norway out of the championship round.
Though its record for the trip was not as desired, Norway's presence was well-received by local Scandinavians and Minneapolis' Royal Norwegian Honorary Consul General Gary Gandrud noted the Twin Cities' Norwegian population was happy and excited to have the team in area.
Norway U-18 goalie coach and 2010 Olympian André Lysenstøen took some time to speak with the MN Hockey Hub about the team's trip to the United States.
Question: Why did your team make the trip all the way to Minnesota?
Answer: We came here early to play some games and be well-prepared for the (Bauer National Invitational) Tournament. We leave on Monday (Nov. 7) and then our league starts the next week. We were here on a national team break so the plan is to just get back there to prepare for our games.
Q: Did you know much about Minnesota before your trip over here?
A: Some of the guys have been here before so those guys new a little bit. This is my first time to the States. The only thing we knew is that the temperature is almost the same as in Norway and that we have a lot of Norwegian natives over here. A lot of Scandinavians over here.
Q: What has your team done besides participate in the Bauer National Invitational Tournament?
A: It has been a tight schedule -- three games in less than a week. We've been touring the campus (at St. Olaf College and Augsburg). We've been to the Mall of America and we've been to a (Minnesota) Wild game. So it's been a tight schedule but that's what we're here for, we're here for hockey. Little entertainment though, having some fun.
Q: What have you noticed about the level of play here in Minnesota?
A: It's really competitive. It's a lot of skating in the games and we've been working really, really hard. There's a lot of scouts and coaches in the stands so (the players) have been working extremely hard. We're trying to skate harder and adjust to the game -- it's a total different game. The Minnesota kids are really good. I think they have excellent teams and a lot of good players. The biggest different is the speed and the competitiveness. They work very hard to be elite hockey players.
Q: What have you personally enjoyed the most about your trip to Minnesota?
A: My favorite thing so far I guess it would be the hockey. The people here love hockey -- they love to talk about it, they love to watch it. Everything about hockey over here is so much bigger and that's what I love the most. It's a new experience for me and you have to love every minute. For us, we don't get to talk about hockey that much back home. I hope it would be on television more like ESPN like college football but that's alright.
Q: What are you hoping to bring back to Norway from this trip?
A: This is preparing us for the World Championships in May. It's really good experience for us. What we're going to take back is the speed, how you work together as a team and the experience. The kids love being with the host families and have learned a lot and will take that back as well. We hope to get invited back next year.