Whether you are living in Burlington, Vt., or Orono, it is a long way from Gothenburg, Sweden.
That is the hometown of University of Maine men’s hockey left wing Theo Andersson and University of Vermont center Sebastian Stalberg.
The best friends will meet up again this weekend in an important two-game Hockey East series at the University of Vermont’s Gutterson Fieldhouse.
Stalberg, a junior, was Vermont’s leading scorer a year ago with nine goals and 19 assists in 36 games and is atop the Catamounts scoring parade this season with 6 and 4 in 12 games.
Andersson, a senior, is on the Bears’ checking line with fellow Swede Klas Leidermark and a variety of right wings so it is very likely that Andersson and Leidermark will find themselves trying to keep Stalberg and his linemates off the scoreboard.
Andersson is pointless in 11 games.
Andersson and Leidermark are two of Maine’s primary penalty-killers and Stalberg leads UVM in power-play goals with three.
The Swedish buddies, who touch base on a regular basis, said playing against each other adds to the drama of the series.
“It obviously brings some extra excitement,” said Stalberg. “It’s fun to beat your buddy.
“It’ll be good to see him. We’ll get caught up a little bit after the game. I want to see him do well as long as we get the win,” said Stalberg.
“I’ll give it a little extra when he’s out there,” Andersson said. “I want to be the better Swede. It’s always a good battle when we play against each other. Our job will be to shut down his line. We have to be aware when he’s out there. He’s very good offensively. He knows how to score.”
Leidermark has gotten to know Stalberg through Andersson and said playing against a Swedish player is always fun.
“I can chirp at him a little extra in Swedish,” said Leidermark. “We have to keep an extra eye on him. We have to pressure him and put him in stressful situations so he’ll turn the puck over.”
Stalberg and Andersson played against each other when they were youngsters but wound up playing together for Frolunda when they were in high school.
Stalberg said Andersson used to be a productive scorer in Sweden.
“[Being a defensive specialist] is fitting his game better over here,” observed Stalberg. “It’s a different game over here.”
Andersson said, “Obviously, I’d love to put up some more points. If I keep working hard, the points will come. I just want the team to win and I’ll do whatever it takes [to help the team win].”
Maine coach Tim Whitehead said it will be important for Andersson and Leidermark to play well, especially on the penalty kill. That will enable him to avoid using top point-producers Spencer Abbott, Brian Flynn and Joey Diamond to kill penalties so he can save them for their regular shift and the power play.
“We’ve got to be more consistent on the penalty kill,” said Andersson.
“We’ve got to give (Abbott, Flynn and Diamond) some rest.”
“We’ve got to stop taking so many penalties,” said Leidermark, a junior who had two goals and two assists in a pair of games at UVM when he was a freshman and earned Hockey East Rookie of the Week honors.
“I had a great weekend. I feel comfortable playing there. It’s a great rink to play in,” said Leidermark.