Monday, March 14, 2011

Semi Finals Here We Come!

Assuming you can tell by my title,  Lillehammer made it to semi finals!  It was a great week of hockey and the LIK pulled together and played their butts off.  The 4th and final game of the series ended at Hamar's rink on Thursday the10th.  There was a fan bus that was leaving from the rink in Lillehammer that Jillian and I decided to jump on since neither one of us can drive our cars (stick shift).  Side note:  I'm going to make it a priority to learn how to drive a stick this Summer! 
When we called to make reservations for a spot on the bus, the guy on the other end of the phone didn't speak very good English, so I was a little nervous he didn't understand what we were saying.  We showed up about a half hour early just to make sure we knew where the bus would be picking people up.  Fortunately, we found the bus pretty quickly and went to talk to the bus driver.  Turns out he looked to be in his early 60's, which was a HUGE red flag that he didn't speak any English.  We asked him if this was the bus going to Hamar for the game, and he responded something in Norwegian.  Jillian and I just stared at each other.  I haven't run into many situations where I was unable to communicate with people here.  Today had to be the day! I'm never frustrated because they can't speak English, I'm frustrated because I can't speak their language!   I found a group of women smoking by the rink and asked them if anyone spoke English, fortunately they all did and were happy enough to translate for me.   All the bus driver was trying to tell us was that we have to pay for the ride once we are on the bus. Easy enough!  We jumped on with all the Super Fans dressed in red and white and hit the road.  Apparently, we missed the memo...but this was a drinking fan bus, so most of the people brought on their own beer.  In the 45 min bus ride, we even had to make a pit stop so people could use the bathroom. 

The arena in Hamar was used for the Olympic figure skating competitions in 1994.  It's a pretty big arena and can fit about 6,000.  When we walked in, we found the rest of the wives and Lillehammer fans.  I was  suprised to see that the crowd was half Lillehammer and half Hamar fans.  That made for a very loud and exciting game! Lillehammer scored the 1st goal in the 1st period which gave them the confidence and drive to continue.  Hamar tied it up in the 2nd period and then Gino scored Lillehammers 2nd goal a few minutes later.  With about 3 minutes left in the 3rd period, Gino scored the 3rd and final goal for Lillehammer winning the game.  It was a huge win for Lillehammer and the organization since they haven't made it past the 1st round of playoffs since 2002.  Hamar, the team they beat, hasn't lost in the 1st round of playoffs in 20 years.  You can imagine how ecstatic the fans, management, coaches, and team were that night. Gino called me from the bus and I couldn't make out anything he was saying over the loud cheering and singing from the players.  Must have been a fun ride back to Lillehammer!  Here is the highlight video, click on the word video highlighted in blue.  It's about 14 minutes long but there's a little suprise footage towards the end of Gino's singing talent in the locker room.  You won't want to miss this!
Lillehammer vs. Hamar 4th/Final game of series

Semi finals start on Wednesday the 16th.  Sparta picked Lillehammer to play in this round.  The team is located in Sarpsborg about 2 hours south of Oslo.  Sparta finished 1st in the regular season by a long shot, about 15 points in the standings.  They've kind of been in a class of their own all year.  Lillehammer has beaten them on their own it's possible!  All the games that they have played against Sparta have been close.  Should be an exciting series! 
There are a few playoff traditions that I will be happy to see being Gino's "Jesus" beard he and the rest of the team have been growing out since the first day of playoffs.  It's not too bad now, but I'm dreading to see what it looks like in another 2 weeks.

About 2 weeks worth of growth
Tonight, the management is taking the team and wives out for a steak dinner as a little congrats for making it to the semi finals.  I'll send out another update after the first few games.  Thanks for all the support!

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