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Groundhog Day.....

By Bandy Boy, 04/18/18, 12:00PM CDT


Story 1 In A Series on the History of USA Bandy

The US and Norway first meet on a bandy rink in Oslo on November 5, 1983. US bandy has been in existence for three seasons. Norway has over 70 years of competitive bandy under their belts. Norway wins the inaugural match 6-1 but the teams are not so far apart. Michael Blessing scores the first goal ever for the US National Team. His is pictured, holding the historic ball, in the Oslo newspaper the next day under the caption "Yippee, I Scored"

In 1985 the US plays Norway for the first time in the World Championships. Again in Oslo. The score is 1-1 at halftime. In 1987 in Vanersborg the score is again 1-1 at the half. In 1991 in Helsinki the score is 1-1 with only five minutes remaining. Yet Norway wins each game. The US team can relate to Sisyphus, the mythological Greek condemned by the Gods to eternally push a large boulder up a steep hill. This requires immense struggle and suffering. Each time, however, that Sisyphus nears the summit, he loses his grip and the boulder rolls back to the bottom of the hill. Each time the US has Norway on the brink, they lose their grip.
The prime goal of the US team throughout the remainder of the 1990s and into the early 2000s is to beat Norway. But victory does not occur. From 2002 to 2009 the US and Norway meet only once as the US plays in the B Pool of the World Championships. Kazan 2005, a 7-2 triumph for Norway. It is 2010 and the World Championships are in Moscow. The US is once again back in the A pool having outscored their B pool opponents 72-3 in the 2009 World Championships. The 2010 US team has offense. They can score. John Arundel, Daren Richardson, Mike Hosfield, Jon Keseley, Steve Nelson, Brendan Bayers head the most potent US offense ever. They score six goals against Sweden. Five against Russia. Four versus Kazakhstan. Each the most goals scored in a game by the US against these countries. Against Norway the US scores five times, again a record. The game is tied with thirty minutes remaining. Once again the US loses their grip and the boulder that is Norway tumbles down the hill.
In 2014, in the brutal Siberian cold of Irkutsk the US has Norway down 5-3 with ten minutes remaining. Norway scores twice and the game ends in a 5-5 tie. The first time that Norway has not won over the US. A cause for US celebration? Perhaps. But still the boulder has tumbled back down the hill. In 2015, in the magnificent indoor arena in Khabarovsk, the US again ties Norway. This time 6-6 on a last minute diving goal by Jacob Blucher. A tremendous game. But still a tie. The boulder goes back to the bottom of the hill.
Come February 3, 2018. The World Championships in Khabarovsk. The US and Norway are meeting to decide who will be fifth place in the world. The oddsmakers have Norway as the heavy favorites. After all, in the twenty four previous meetings between the two nations Norway has never lost. In addition, Norway has easily handled the US in their last two meetings, 7-0 and 8-3. Even so the Norwegian coach recognizes that if the bandy ball bounces the US way then Norway is in trouble. And so the game begins. Scoreless until the 37th minute when Norway breaks through to take a 1-0 lead. The US is undeterred and six minutes later Captain Mike Carman scores on a rebound off a Kevin Brown shot. The score is tied 1-1 at half. Once again. But this game will end with a different winner than all the previous US vs Norway games. At the 63 minute mark Wyatt Wenzel scores on a perfect pass from Carman. Three minutes later the Norwegians tie the score 2-2. Sixteen minutes remain when Alexander Zitouni skates through and around the Norwegian defense, finding Carman with a pass in front of the goal. Carman buries it and the US is ahead 3-2. The remaining sixteen minutes become the most intense in the history of US bandy. The area in front of the US goal becomes a war zone as Norway launches ball after ball into the penalty area. The pressure further intensifies when both Carman and Daren Richardson are sent to the penalty box, leaving the US with only 8 skaters. Norway's desperation mounts yet the magnificent eight, backed by sensational US goalie Eric Kraska, shut down the Norwegians again and again. The game ends as Norway shoots a ball that goes inches over the top of the US goal. Thirty five years in the making. Team USA has finally done it. They have defeated Norway. They pushed the boulder all the way to the top of the hill where it securely rests. The greatest victory ever in the history of US bandy.
The celebration begins on the ice. Thousands of Russians in the stands chant in unison "USA USA". The Russian and Finnish players delay their warmup for their game against each other to congratulate the US team. Into the locker room with singing and chanting. Coach Chris Halden is beer can sprayed by the entire team. The celebration continues on the bus ride back to the hotel and ultimately to a Khabarovsk nightclub. It finally subsides at 6 the next morning as the last of the players return to the hotel. In the days that follow Norway recognizes and honors the US team on the Norwegian Bandy website. Even the Russian Embassy in Washington DC puts the US team photo on their website and recognizes the historic victory.
Later that same morning Chris Halden and I awake. We have been roommates on countless bandy trips. Ice hockey and then bandy teammates for over 42 years. Together we have either played or coached in every US game against Norway since the first one in 1983. Thirty five years. That is almost a lifetime. We can think of no-one who has been playing and coaching as long as we have. Haldo asks me:
"Do you remember the movie Groundhog Day"?
I do. Bill Murray is caught in a time loop, forced to live the same day over and over until he finally gets it right. He finally does and wakes up to a brand new day.
"That's what this feels like" Haldo continues.
"We finally got it right. We finally beat Norway"
"Now we can move on"
"Isn't this a wonderful day"
USA Team Members Of the Greatest Victory Ever
Erik Kraska
Gavin Ancheta
Zach Wynn
Daren Richardson
Mac Williams
Andrew Knutson
Peter Knutson
Alexander Zitouni
Mike Carman
Murphy Dwyer
Zach Knight
Wyatt Wenzel
Jacob Blucher
Kevin Brown
Michael Lickteig
Dane Ericsson
Greg Olson
Head Coach: Chris Halden
Team Leader; Chris Middlebrook
Technical Director: John Hedenstrom
General Manager: Magnus Skold
Previous US Norway Results
1983 Norway 6  USA 1
1985 Norway 5  USA 1
1987 Norway 4  USA 1
1988 Norway 6  USA 1
1989 Norway 7  USA 1
1991 Norway 2  USA 1
1993 Norway 7  USA 0 
1995 Norway 4  USA 1
             Norway 4  USA 1
1997 Norway 7  USA 1
1999 Norway 7  USA 0
2001 Norway 4  USA 1
             Norway 18 USA 0
2002 Norway 7  USA 2
             Norway 18  USA 1
2005 Norway 7  USA 2
2010 Norway 10  USA 5
2011 Norway 7  USA 3
2012 Norway 6  USA 3
2014 Norway 5  USA 5
             Norway 6  USA 3
2015 Norway 6  USA 6
2016 Norway 7  USA 0
2017 Norway 8  USA 3
2018 USA 3  Norway 2