International Ice Hockey Federation

Cohesive team game is key

Cohesive team game is key

Reichenberg confident in underdog Norway

Published 16.02.2018 18:38 GMT+10 | Author Derek O'Brien
Cohesive team game is key
Norwegian forward Alexander Reichenberg during the game against Sweden. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
Despite how the name appears, Alexander Prince Fredrik Ramprecht Reichenberg doesn’t come from royal blood. He does come from a hockey family, though.

Born in Mora, Sweden to Swedish parents, his father Ronny Reichenberg was a pro hockey player who finished his career in Lillehammer, Norway in the 1993/94 season. Alexander was only a year old at the time and has lived in Norway ever since.

“My mom and dad are Swedish and I was born in that country, but I’ve lived in Norway for so long now and I’m a Norwegian citizen,” he said about his nationality.

For Norwegians, sporting events against Sweden are always a big deal, but when the Norwegians began their Olympic schedule against their western neighbour, it’s of great interest to the Reichenberg family.

“It’s special but I think it’s more special for my family because they’re all Swedish,” he laughed. “My dad booked off work that day to watch it, because it’s so early in the morning.

“We start with two tough games right away against Sweden and Finland, but you just have to play the games and after see whether you win or not,” he continued. “We played Finland in the World Championship last year and we took them to overtime. Then we had a 4-on-3 power play and maybe we should have won, but they got a breakaway right at the end and scored.”

As for Norway’s third Group C opponent: “We’ve played Germany a lot and we think we can beat them – we all say in the dressing room that’s a game we should win. If we can do that and maybe we can get a point or two against the other two, it would improve our position for the next round.”

It won’t be easy, but one thing Reichenberg figures the Norwegians have in their favour that they didn’t have in Sochi, where they lost four straight games, is the lack of NHL players available to some of the top teams.

“They’re all good teams but I think it’s good for us that the others can’t have their stars with them. We only have two guys (unavailable) right now so we have pretty much the same team in every tournament. We might be a bit more of a cohesive unit than some of the other teams and maybe we can make the quarter-finals this year. That’s our goal.”

The Norwegians are without Mats Zuccarello who plays for the New York Rangers and Andreas Martinsson of the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs, who are affiliated with the Chicago Blackhawks. Both of those players helped Norway qualify for the Olympics last season, but otherwise the team’s roster is pretty much the same as it’s been the past several years.

“We change maybe two or three players every year, which isn’t a lot, so we can play a system and we all know what each other is doing all the time, which might help us win some games,” he explained.

The Norwegians will try to play a solid team game under Petter Thoresen, who is now in his second season as head coach of the national team. Thoresen has two sons on the team. One of them, Patrick, plays in a top-line player in the KHL for SKA St. Petersburg, so he’ll be counted on as one of the offensive leaders.

“Patrick plays with Kovalchuk and Datsyuk, so he’s a good player, and his brother (Steffen) is kind of a grinder but he’s really good at what he does – blocking shots, taking hits.”

Another brother combo on the team is the Olimbs, Mathis and Ken-Andre. Mathis is also a former KHLer and has been a big scorer in Sweden and Switzerland as well. Other notable players are defenceman Jonas Holos, who plays in Switzerland, and goaltender Lars Haugen, who is the starter for Farjestad Karlstad in the SHL

“Lars has had a really good year,” said Reichenberg. “He’s been in the KHL and I think he’s a good starting goalie. Obviously, we’re going to need him to be good if we want to be successful.”

Most of the Norwegian national team plays outside of Norway and Reichenberg, who is in his first season with Sparta Prague in the Czech Republic, is one of them. And while at 25 he is one of the youngest players on what is mostly a veteran Norwegian team, he does have experience being an underdog on the international stage.

In the 2015/16 season, he played for Norwegian club Storhamar IF, which surprised a lot of Europe’s top teams, including the one he currently plays for, and was among the last 16 teams in the Champions Hockey League.

“We knew we were underdogs at the start of that but we competed hard and did pretty well. We lost the first game at home to Sparta but we thought we could beat them, then we went to Prague and won and then we went on to Geneva and won there too, so it was a pretty good road trip and we kept going from there,” he recalled.

“It was good for the Norwegian league to show that our teams could go out and compete with top teams around Europe, and it was also a good opportunity for me to show that I can play at a high level and it got me this opportunity with Sparta and I’m glad about that.”

However, the Olympics are a whole new level. The PyeongChang games won’t be the first Winter Olympics he’s been present at, but he has no memories of the first ones, as he was just an infant when Lillehammer hosted in 1994.

“It’s gonna be a huge life experience for me,” he admitted. “I’ve played in World Championships and that’s cool too, but just the atmosphere of the Olympics, with all the athletes from different sports all staying in the same village, and hopefully getting the chance to watch some other sports if we get a day off. Also, I’ve never been to South Korea before and maybe I’ll never go again, so that’s another thing.”

And like for many players, the Olympics create career opportunities as well. Reichenberg has shown he can play on a bigger stage before.

“If I have a good tournament, maybe I can come back to Sparta with some new energy, raise the level of my game and hopefully help the team in the playoffs.”

 

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