Norway make changes to avenge ‘missing’ Sochi medal

The team are confident that a combination of changes to their ice sledge hockey team’s coaching staff and fresh talent could secure them success at Buffalo 2015. 21 Jan 2015
Loyd-Remi Pallander Solberg challenges Russian Vasilii Varlakov

Loyd-Remi Pallander Solberg, Norway, challenges Russian Vasilii Varlakov at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.

ⒸLuc Percival Photography
By Kim McGreal | for the IPC

“The missing medal from Sochi will indeed be a strong motivational factor for us in our preparations towards Buffalo.”

The Norwegian ice sledge hockey team has made some big changes to their coaching line-up in the hope of returning to their medal-winning ways for the 2015 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships A-Pool in Buffalo, USA, after two disappointing years.

Long serving assistant coach, Espen Hegde, has now taken on the mantle of Head Coach, with a new team beside him on the bench.

“Following the retirement of long term and acknowledged head coach, Morten Haglund, we are excited to have former elite ice hockey player, Ole Eskild Dahlstrom, and former ice sledge hockey player, Tommy Rovelstad, as part of our coaching staff,” Hegde said.

“With increased abilities and new perspectives, I believe Team Norway will have a different look this year.”

Dahlstrom, who played 96 games for team Norway and won the Norwegian Ice Hockey Federation’s Golden Puck accolade as the best player of the year, will bring a new perspective to the team, while Rovelstad has had success with the Norwegian ice sledge hockey team, winning seven medals in international competitions.

Hegde himself, as well as his experience with the Norwegian team, also coached the European team who participated in the IPC Ice Sledge Hockey International Women’s Cup in Canada in 2014, the first sanctioned event for women ever held.

One person who remains an integral part of the team is Rolf Pedersen. Before Sochi, the veteran player was debating whether he would continue to play, but Hegde was quick to confirm his involvement. “Rolf Pedersen is an amazing athlete and competitor who is still a central part of our team. His skill and personality is well recognised and I believe he will be as ready as anyone on our team to affect the outcome of the games. His desire and ability to contribute to the team’s performance is unquestionable.”

The recent IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Series games against Sweden in November gave Hegde and his new coaching staff an opportunity to try out a number of new players and line combinations, including Lena Schroder. Schroder is one of the few female ice sledge hockey players competing at an international level in Norway, and is making a strong case for her inclusion into the Buffalo 2015 team.

“[She] is a very skillful ice sledge hockey player, and one of the most experienced woman players in Norway,” Hegde commented. “She has great understanding of the game and will be playing for a roster spot on the same level as the other players. At this point it is too early to speculate about chances for a spot, but she is very much part of our internal competition.”

With two out of three wins against Sweden, the team is determined to put their loss at the Sochi 2014 Winter Paralympics behind them. After an unbeaten preliminary round, they were shut out in both the semi-finals against Russia and then in the bronze medal game against Canada.

But Hegde insists that missing out on a medal will only push the team to better things. “Part of our team philosophy is that we learn more from losing than we do from winning.”

“The missing medal from Sochi will indeed be a strong motivational factor for us in our preparations towards Buffalo.”

The 2015 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships A-Pool take place from 24 April – 2 May.

Defending champions and Sochi bronze medallists Canada are drawn in Group A alongside Czech Republic, Norway and Japan.

Group B will feature hosts USA, who finished with world silver in 2013, Russia, Italy and Germany.

For more information about the event, please visit the event website.