A Friday night in Skåne might be tougher than some players think. The arena only holds 2150 people but the noise level is that of a European football game, with a huge fan section drawing the rest of the crowd in. The substantial away fans really have to work to make themselves heard.
Many might think it is easy for the classic team Modo to come in here and collect three points, but the energy from the fans carries the Kristianstad forward and wave upon wave of green clad players enter into the Modo zone; it is Mattias Norlinder’s defence that we get to see in action first.
In the end Modo comes away with a hard fought 3-2 win. Norlinder should have had an assist awarded on the second goal and had two good chances to score as well. However his strong defence has been on display, and it is better than many think after having seen the highlight reel goals that Norlinder has produced lately. His defensive reads are great, he stands up well to the physical play and his breakouts and zone exits are strong.
It is a smiling Montreal Canadiens prospect that we meet after the game. He praises the home crowd and acknowledges that the game was much tougher than he thought, especially with the travel that Modo had to do to get here.
“My confidence is getting better with every game, and it feels like I am ‘in’ the games a lot more than I was before. The coaches are giving me more assignments and that benefits my game as a whole,” Norlinder said. “I had a great chance in the end and it is [leaves a bitter taste] to miss a chance like that, but I’ll score one next game instead.”
With five goals in nine games Norlinder leads all defenders in HockeyAllsvenskan and he isn’t just happy to lead that competition after finishing second in goals among defenders in the U20 playoffs last season.
What has really been the difference compared to last season? “I still try to pass the puck, but I am getter better chances so the goals comes naturally.”
Having just spoken with Tobias Enström about Norlinder and his future it is interesting to hear what Norlinder thinks about playing with the NHL veteran.
“It it great to play with him, especially for my own development. Just to see how he acts out there is important for me, then he helps me a lot when we are out there together. It is just great for me to have him around.”
The main goal of the season is to earn a promotion to the SHL with Modo, but on a personal level there is something much closer.
“It is a personal goal for me to be part of the World Junior team, it would be huge to be part of such a tournament. I have never played in any of the National teams, to just be part of the WJC team would be an amazing experience.”
With the next Four Nations tournament around the corner, hosted in Finland November 8-10, and World Junior Championships in the Czech Republic at the end of the year has Norlinder hasn’t heard anything yet from national team coach Tomas Montén. Norlinder was on the radar with the World Junior Summer Showcase but his injury forced him out of those games.
The sound from Sweden across the Atlantic has become louder with each of the goals that Norlinder has scored, and as a result, the interest from Montreal fans has exploded. The defender laughs when he acknowledges that there has been more than he expected.
“It is super fun to see the interest from the Montreal fans, and that they try and interact with me is really cool.”
His connection with the Montreal fans is just getting started, and it may be something the young Swede will have to get used to.