We're both sad and excited to say the season is officially over. Lillehammer had a good run at playoffs but lost out last night against Sparta. The semi-finals started Wednesday March 16th with the first game being on Sparta's home ice in Sarpsborg, about 4 hours south of Lillehammer. Sparta finished in 1st place in the regular season by a long shot. They're a very physical team that uses hitting to intimidate there opponents a little more than most teams so we knew going into it that this was going to be a pretty tough series.
Sparta ended up winning the first game 3-1. The second game was on Friday March 18th in Lillehammer. For some reason, I wasn't as nervous for this series against the #1 team in the league as I was when they played Hamar (rival) in the first round. I think everyone was so happy and proud that Lillehammer beat their "curse" and kicked Hamars butts. By the semi-finals the guys seemed to be a little run down on the ice. They used up all there energy to beat Hamar and it was hard to get going again for another round. In the second game, Lillehammer beat Sparta 5-1. They played just as physical as Sparta and I think that freaked the other team out a bit. They weren't expecting it. The game proceeded to get heated very quick and after the 1st period the score was 2-1 and Sparta was frustrated. When the whistle was blown after the period a few guys from both teams stayed out on the ice and started arguing and pushing each other back and forth. Soon enough all the players were back on the ice fighting and the refs couldn't really control it. The fans were screaming and cheering them on. It was a little scary. Finally, the coaches came out on the ice and started pushing the guys off and into the locker room.
Game 3 was on Sunday March 20th and back on Sparta's ice. The games were televised on a local channel so I was tyring to watch but the channel cut out right before the game started. FRUSTRATING. Instead, I watched Bridges of Madison County, ha. Sparta won 4-2 with an empty net goal. Game 4 was back in Lillehammer on Tuesday so I was able to attend. Sad to think of it now, but it was my last game to watch:( The guys looked pretty tired out on the ice but started to pick up the momentum in the 3rd period. Gino ended up scoring a goal about a minute and 20 seconds left in the period. At this point it was 2-1, so it looked like Lillehammer still had a chance! They played tough but couldn't get there. The game ended with Sparta winning 2-1. Game 5 of the series was last night....and we all know what happened there. Sparta won 3-0. Again, I wasn't able to watch but kept up with the game on pointstreak.com. Gino said he was prepared either way, whatever the outcome. They should be proud of themselves for such a great season and having the best season Lillehammer has had in 9 years.
On another positive note....the beard is coming off!!! As you can see in the picture, Gino is happy about that too.
We will be leaving on an end of the year trip to Amsterdam and Belgium on Tuesday. (Ill write a seperate entry of our final trip). After the trip we will fly back to Lillehammer to pack up our apartment and fly home. We'll find out tomorrow on the exact date of our flight home but we're pretty sure it will be on Monday April 4th.
All in all, I can not tell you how great the opportunity to live abroad has been for both of us. I don't know if our experience would have been better or worse in another country, but I'm so thankful to have had such an easy transition being in Norway. The people we have met have become like family to us and if we were given the chance (and the right $ amount, ha) to return next year we would both be ecstatic. Either way, Lillehammer will always have a special place in our heart as being the city we made our home during our first year of marriage.