Game preview: Crusaders vs. Nordmen

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After an off-season of uncertainty and apprehension, the Rovaniemi Nordmen begin their 2020 season with a road trip to Lohja to face off against the United Newland Crusaders.

By the time the Nordmen line up across from the Crusaders on Saturday, July 25th, it will have been nearly three years since the Nordmen last tasted defeat. For those interested in the actual count; it’s 2 years, 11 months and 13 days. 1078 days, to be exact.

That’s a long time.

A powerhouse the past two seasons in the 3rd and 2nd divisions, Rovaniemi has been building momentum with their ascension to the 1st division and they will not be looking to show up just to get a participation trophy. With the step up into the 1st division, also comes a noticeable increase in the level of competition; as almost anyone familiar with gridiron football in Finland will tell you, the biggest step is from the 2nd division to the 1st division. As such, the Warriors of the Four Winds have been preparing both on and off the field for their debut season in the 1st division and are looking to make a splash in what has become a much shorter and difficult season to prepare for.

What to expect from UNC

In their third season since merging the Loha Lions and Hanko Sun City, the United Newland Crusaders are coming off of a 2-6 2019 season during which they were the odd man out of the 1st division playoffs. The playoff lottery selection process had a lot of people scratching their heads last year, as the Mikkeli Bouncers, East City Giants (Helsinki) and UNC all shared the same record after the regular season, but UNC had the smallest margin of defeat when compared to the other two clubs. Regardless of what kind of Russian Roulette game some played with letting who into the playoffs last year or not, UNC appears to have come into the 2020 season with a chip on their shoulder and are ready to prove that they did belong in the playoffs last year

The most notable addition to the UNC roster this year is QB Robert ” Rojo” Johnson; a living legend of sorts in Finnish American Football. With his departure from the Helsinki Wolverines, Johnson has also taken a gaggle of players along with him, including: Otto Laakkonen, Santeri Lehtola, Henri Nordström, Eetu Päiväniemi, Jason Thomas & Onni Soininen. Soininen has been playing at NCAA D3 Lawrence University in Wisconsin, after having played high school ball in rural, northern Georgia. There’s no doubt that the coaching he’s received from his time in the USA will have helped him immensely; so he will absolutely be a player to keep an eye on.

What to expect from the Nordmen

Two consecutive undefeated seasons have been amazing for the Rovaniemi Nordmen. They’ve grown their ranks on the field, as well as their popularity off the field within the city of Rovaniemi, and beyond. The off-season was a bit rougher than normal, but with the early on-set of summer the Nordmen were able to hit the ground running and have been working closely with their farm club, the Hyvinkää Falcons, to put together a competitive roster on both sides of the ball.

In addition to the re-signing of Rafael Pineda, last autumn, the Nordmen have also strengthened their lines and defense. Long-time Helsinki Rooster, Olli Kantola, has decided to return “home” for the season. Kantola brings experience and skill that has already shown through in the development of Rovaniemi’s offensive and defensive linemen. Eric Irvin was also brought in to shore up the departure of a few players from the Nordmen secondary, and he’s looking to have a big season in the north. Offensive threats Hannes Harju and Alfonso Ikäheimo are primed to become a solid receiving duo for Rovaniemi, as well. Entering his second season with the Nordmen, OL Tom Engström is expected to step up and become the player that HC Pineda sees him to be, while Tuomas Lahtinen has had arguably the greatest amount of improvement on the defensive line.

Important info

The game will be streamed live via UNC’s YouTube channel: CrusadersTV. Kickoff for the game is at 4pm at Virkkalan Keskuskenttä in Lohja. Remember to follow us on Facebook and Instagram for game highlights and updates!


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