Pesky opposition plays tough

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:29 AM ET

HALIFAX -- This is where the 'Yikes' factor kicks in.

If it were the Olympics it would be the 'Oh, My Gawd, The Sky Is Falling, All Is Lost' factor.

Canada damn near lost to Norway at the first IIHF World Championship in Canada here yesterday.

Team Canada 2, Norges Ishockeyforbund, the team with the polar bear crest on the front of their uniforms, 1.

Hey, this can happen in curling.

Hello Pal Trulsen and Dordy Nordby.

But this is hockey.

It's Canada in Canada.

The guy playing goal for Norway is a carpenter.

And that was Rick Nash having to go from coast to coast down the wing, cut to the net and backhand the game-winning goal into the net behind the carpenter with 3:58 to go to win the game.

GAME OFF THE PLANE

This wasn't the first game off the plane with a so-so team after a lot of NHLers said no to going to some dreary destination in Eastern Europe.

In 2000 in Russia, Norway pulled off a shock 4-3 win over Canada and ended up one point short of advancing to the quarter-finals for the first time in their history, an accomplishment it looks like they may be about to achieve.

Between then and now, however, they spent three years in 'B' pool in the middle of the decade.

This is no so-so Canadian team. Or it shouldn't be.

This one is a star-studded lineup of talented players allegedly excited about playing the event at home, and Rick Nash has to do it by himself in the dying minutes to pull out a 2-1 win?

Shane Doan has been to this movie before.

"Last year in our first two games of the tournament in Moscow we beat Germany and Norway by one goal and everyone was saying we weren't a good enough team. Everybody was saying 'What will happen when they play good teams?' "

Doan didn't have to point out that Canada won gold last year.

And it's now a 13-game winning streak for this team at the world championship.

But it makes you wonder why Team Canada has decided not to practice today.

Did that look like a team not in need of practising? Wives must be showing up today.

The last thing Canadians want to do after watching a game like that is credit the other nation. And that's probably going to be true with one which was coming off a highly emotional win over Germany the night before and were playing on 18 hours rest. But consider their side of the story.

"I didn't sleep at all after the game," said Norway carpenter/goaltender Pal Grotnes.

"I had maybe one hour sleep in the afternoon."

Norway's goal scorer Mads Hansen said it was a game his team played almost entirely on adrenalin.

"It was a big emotional game the night before. Then we have to get up and play Canada in Canada.

"But the last three world championships, we played good against the good nations."

This year they took Finland to overtime before losing and beat Germany.

Now they throw a big scare into Canada.

"We have George Kingston," said Hansen of the Calgarian who took over the hockey program in Norway for the Lillehammer Olympics and is now back in a similar position and beginning by helping out as an assistant coach of the club.

"He told us how we should play the game. He showed us great team play could beat their great individuals," added Hansen.

WATERING HOLE

It was in a waterfront watering hole where the Norway team coaches and executives gathered to toast their win over Germany the night before that Kingston pointed out the scene at the back table to the columnist.

"Those are tears of joy," he pointed to the Norway table.

After giving Canada the game last night, they have every reason to gather there again.

Norway almost beat Canada yesterday without their two best players, their only two NHL players.

A half dozen players are in the Swedish Elite League and another three playing pro in Germany.

There's also ex-Edmonton Oiler Patrick Thoresen, still playing in the Stanley Cup playoffs and Columbus Blue Jacket Ole-Kristian Tollefson, who is out with a neck injury.

"The only trouble is, we'll be judged in Norway on how we do against Canada, not the USA and Latvia," Kingston said before the game.

Norway, you have to figure, will be more than pleased with how they did against Canada yesterday.

But in Canada? Yikes!


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