Poland U16 Win 2023 U16 Riga Cup

In May of this year, the Polish U16 squad finished their incredible year by winning one of the biggest U16 tournaments in Europe, the Riga Cup. The Polish team has been working their way up the tournament and was determined to take home gold after finishing with Silver last year. The Polish team finished with an almost perfect record winning six games and drawing in two matches. They would advance to the goal medal game versus the Swedish Top Speed Hockey Program. Poland would defeat them 3-0 with the gaming-winning goal from Olaf Zachariasz, while Kacper Michalski pitched the shutout.


Goalies: Bartosz Brynczka, Juliusz Cegliński, & Kacper Michalski

Defensemen: Filip Wojciechowski, Jan Matera, Igor Antolak, Maciej Tuszkowski, Miłosz Bąk, Patryk Zubek, Paweł Słomian, & Wojciech Wilczok.

Forwards: Adam Leśniok, Adrian Ziober, Filip Piątkowski, Jakub Janik, Jacek Juchniewicz, Jakub Skrzypski, Maksymilian Rusnak, Marcin Sroka, Matuesz Biały, Mateusz Majkowski, Mikołaj Osiadły, Olaf Zachariasz, Szymon Gumiński, Wiktor Makuła, Wiktor Zając


Game 1: Falkons vs. Poland U16 – 2:2. Poland Goals: Jakub Janik & Jan Matera

Game 2: Poland U16 vs. Baltu Vilki/BHC37 – 3:0. Poland Goals: Wojciech Wilczok, Olaf Zachariasz, Igor Antolak

Game 3: Lithuania U16 Selects vs. Poland U16 – 1:3. Poland Goals: Filip Wojciechowski, Mikołaj Osiadły, & Wojciech Wilczok

Game 4: Poland U16 vs. Jelgavas LSS – 6:0. Poland Goals: Szymon Gumiński, Wojciech Wilczok, Mikołaj Osiadły, Maksymilian Rusnak, Adrian Ziober, & Jacek Juchniewicz.

Game 5: HS Rīga 2007 vs. Poland U16 – 1:2. Poland Goals: Wiktor Zając & Patryk Zubek

Game 6: Strömsbro HC vs. Poland U16 – 1:1. Poland Goal: Mateusz Majkowski

Semi-Final: Poland U16 vs. HS Kurbads 2007/08 – 4:1. Poland Goals: Olaf Zachariasz, Jakub Skrzypski, Mateusz Majkowski, & Marcin Sroka

Final: Top Speed Hockey vs. Poland U16 – 1:3. Poland Goals: Olaf Zachariasz, Wiktor Zając, & Jacek Juchniewicz

Final Thoughts

At Polish Puck, we don’t start covering players until they turn 16. The Riga Cup has become the first time we look at many players regarding their future and potential for the U18 squad. The defense and offense did much of the heavy lifting for Poland regarding puck control, as the U16 squad often limited their opponents to under ten shots a game. Still, Poland did so well at this tournament, partly thanks to their trio of goalies. Juliusz Cegliński, who plays in the Czech junior system, took home the honor of being the best goalie in the tournament. In three games, he finished with a .938 save percentage and one shutout. Kacper Michalski had a great final game against Top Speed with a ten-save shutout. Bartosz Brynczka finished with one shutout in his two appearances.

The offense saw a lot of great performances from the defense. Wojciech Wilczok scored three goals and collected some assists as while. Patryk Zubek also had a strong tournament piling up assists and flashing solid defensive skills. Seven of the goals in the tournament were scored by Polish defensemen, a possible good sign with the country needing some firepower from the point. Among forwards, Olaf Zachariasz, Mateusz Majkowski, and Mikołaj Osiadły stood out in driving plays and producing.

It is good to see Poland succeeding at this level and another sign of the growing sport in the country. While there is nothing to immediately be excited about for the national team. We see Poland will continue to have some strong prospects in stronger junior leagues abroad, while others will be stepping into playing full-time MHL hockey next year. It is a good sign for the Poland U18 squad, as they will have a few appointments from this cup-winning roster.

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Team Not Poland 2023

What if you made a team of players that chose another country over Poland? That would be Team Not Poland. This is a project I have been tracking for a bit because sometimes you just need to feel pain and take a look at all the talent Poland has lost. It has been four years since we first made a Team Not Poland roster and two players on the roster just won silver at the Men’s World Championship, so it feels like an appropriate time for an updated roster. The 2019 club had a strong offense led by former NHL players Wojtek Wolski and Krys Kolanos. The defense and goaltending was where the club fell apart. There was also a lot of young talent on the roster last time, so it will be interesting to see how they developed, as the squad lost a lot of players to retirement.

Before we begin, a reminder that this list is for fun. We are just looking at players with a Polish flag on their Elite Prospects page. We are not judging or criticizing any player for picking another country over Poland. In fact, although many of the following players might have been born in Poland or hold a Polish passport, they might never have had Poland as a choice due to IIHF eligibility rules.


Wojciech Stachowiak (DEL) – Stéphane Da Costa (KHL) – Teddy Da Costa (PHL)

Adam Kiedewicz (DEL2) – Maciej Rutkowski (DEL) – Jakub Borzęcki (DEL2)

Denis Szczepaniec (U20-Elit) – Mateusz Szurowski (HockeyEttan) – Adrian Grygiel (Oberliga)

Bartek Bison (BeNeLiga) – Evan McGrath (ACH) – Arthur Pawlik (USPHL Premier)

The offense still carries the team but lost vital veterans in Jacob Micflikier, Jordan Pietrus, Krys Kolanos, and Wojtek Wolski. The good news is that many of the young prospects that chose Germany over Poland have hit. The first line will feature the two best Da Costa brothers and German national team member Stachowiak. That line will have to play some heavy minutes, and they will get some help from the second line, which features three players at the top levels of German hockey. Still, the top six is very young right now, and competing with such inexperienced forwards playing big minutes may be hard for them.

The third line features a mix of players that could be strong contributors, but Szczepanic and Szurowski haven’t taken the next step in their professional careers yet at senior hockey. However, Adrian Grygiel would be a great mentor for them, as he played the last few seasons with Krefelder EV 1981 U23, working with some of the players in the top six. The fourth line is rough and would likely receive minimal minutes. The young players have developed for Team Not Poland but are not yet at the level of the veterans they lost. The offense has taken a step back for Team Not Poland.


Maksymilian Szuber (DEL) – Rayan Bettahar (DEL)

Arkadiusz Dziambor (DEL) – Marcel Wohlmuth (Division 2, SWE)

 Alexander Andrews (GMHL) – Paul Carney (ACHA II)

The defense is what took a big step forward this time. Szuber is an NHL draft pick of the Arizona Coyotes, while Bettahar has made strides as a DEL defenseman. That top pairing will likely have to play over 30 minutes a game for the squad to stay competitive. The second pairing is excellent on one side and weak on the other. Dziambor is a strong young player starting his DEL career, while Marcel Wohlmuth is in the fourth level of Swedish hockey. Wohlmuth must play some of the big minutes, which Poland could take advantage of. The bottom paring likely wouldn’t get much action as we have to fill the roster with some lower North American junior and college players.


Stefan Carney (NAHL)

Herman Liv (J20 National)

They have great potential for the future in the net, but both goalies are under 20 right now. Carney gets the start but has struggled in the NAHL this year. In previous seasons, he had a chance to suit up for the US national development program. Herman Liv is the son of the late great Stefan Liv. At only 16 years old, he is starting to build a lot of hype in the Swedish junior leagues.

Could they beat Team Poland?

This team has a lot of young talent, but Team Not Poland is not ready to take on the actual team Poland yet. With the lack of depth, the team has, they would have the young talent playing some significant minutes, leading to Poland likely taking over. We saw the depth Poland had in the World Championships too. Their forechecking against the bottom lines of Team Not Poland would be disastrous for the non-red and white. I believe Poland could easily beat team Not Poland, and it wouldn’t be close. I would bet the over on the goal total for sure.

If you want to keep up with all the Polish hockey action, make sure to follow us on Twitter @PolandHockey, like our Facebook page, and add us on Instagram @PolishPuck_. Also, support us on Patreon to help keep the content flowing!

Poland Finishes Fifth at 2023 University Hockey World Cup

April is the busiest time of the year for international hockey, with three IIHF teams in play and some non-IIHF action. We’re a bit late due to the April national team action, but I still wanted to recap those other events. One of the big tournaments going on was the World Cup of University Hockey. Academic teams from around the world gathered to play together in Romania. This was the first World Cup of Hockey held with each country having one academic team. Previously the tournament was held with regions having all-star squads. This year the tournament included eight teams in two groups. In Group A were Hungary, Slovakia, Sweden, and the USA. Group B was comprised of Canada, Czechia, Poland, and Romania. For my curious American and Canadian followers, their squads were all-star teams made up of players from the ACHA level of college hockey.

Poland entered the tournament with somewhat of an all-star team from Poland. While there was a lot of talent from within Polish junior leagues and a few who played outside Poland. Many of the group came from UHT Sabres Oswiecim, who play in the European University Hockey League. There should be many familiar names for Polish fans as quite a few players appeared at international events for Polish junior teams or have ranked in our men’s top 80 rankings. The Polish university squad came in with the smallest and second youngest team in the tournament, and it would take a lot for them to overcome some tough opponents. Players in italics are from UHT Sabres Oswiecim.

Goalies: Dominik Buczek, Filip Płonka, & Gabriel Kaczkowski

Defenesmen: Dawid Tynka, Kacper Łukawski, Jakub Najsarek, Marek Augustyniak, Michał Kokoszewski, Michał Jaracz, Michał Proczek, & Piotr Kot

Forwards: Dominik Kasprzyk, Filip Sienkiewicz, Karol Moś, Jakub Musioł, Jakub Ślusarczyk, Mateusz Bezwiński, Michał Kusak, Oliwier Ksiondz, Oliwier Tumidalski,Patryk Kusak, Szymon Fus, & Vasili Yerasov.

Game 1: Czechia vs. Poland

Czechia – Poland 4:3

Poland Goals: Vasili Yerassov (2x), & Jakub Slusarczyk

The Czechs were a top team coming into this tournament, led by one of the top scorers in the Oberliga, Jakub Cizek. It was a back-and-forth battle on the score sheet, but Poland was often stuck in their own zone. Despite that, they would open the scoring late in the first, with Yerassov grabbing his first of the tournament. The two sides would exchange goals in the second resulting in a tied game at two apiece. With six minutes to go in the third, Poland grabbed their third lead, but Czechia would quickly tie it again before taking the lead with under two minutes. Poland failed to take back their lead this time, and Czechia would take the win on day one. Poland was outshot 44-27 in this game; they held off the Czech siege for as long as possible but eventually fell to it.

Game 2: Canada vs. Poland

Canada – Poland 10:3

Poland Goals: Mateusz Bezwinski (2x), & Jakub Najsarek

Seeing Poland playing Canada is always a weird thing to see at any level. Never forget Poland beat Canada at the 2001 Nagano Cup! Still, this game went as about as you would expect. Poland did keep a somewhat even pace with Canada early on. After two periods, the score was only 4-2, and it often was a one-goal game. Canada would break through and score six in the third. The Eagles got one back but dropped their second tournament game with a 10-3 final.

Game 3: Romania vs. Poland

Romania – Poland 4:5

Poland Goals: Jakub Ślusarczyk (2x), Vasili Yerasov, Mateusz Bezwinski, & Michal Proczek

Poland would take on the host at the end of the group stage. Looking to not walk away with three losses in group play, the red and white got off to a hot start with a two-goal first period. Romania would find their way back into the game during the second period with some clutch saves and two goals. Poland would reclaim their lead four minutes into the third period, before adding two more goals, including one shorthanded by Ślusarczyk. Romania would get two back, but it would not matter as Poland held on to their victory.

Game 4: Hungary vs. Poland

Hungary – Poland: 2:3

Poland Goals: Jakub Ślusarczyk, Vasili Yerasov, & Filip Sienkiewicz

With group play behind them and finishing with a 1-2 record, Poland looked to hopefully go home with better results in the placement games. They got matched up with eternal rival Hungary, who would open up the scoring early. Vasili Yerasov would continue his great tournament by tying the game shortly after. These two countries would keep it scoreless in the second, but less than a minute into the third, Poland would regain the lead thanks to Ślusarczyk. Hungary would tie it again at the halfway mark of the third. With just over a minute left, Filip Sienkiewicz would score his first of the tournament to become the hero.

Game 5: Sweden vs. Poland

Sweden – Poland: 2-4

Poland Goals: Jakub Ślusarczyk (3x) & Michal Kusak

The red and white were set to end the tournament with a game for fifth place versus Sweden. A formidable and top rival, it would be a big game for the Poles, and their nerves might have got the best of them at first. Sweden jumped out to a 2-0 lead early in the second, with both coming from former HockeyEttan forward Max Wedjesjö. When the game reached its halfway point, the switch flipped for Poland. Ślusarczyk would score once in the second to make it a one-goal game. The third period would be all Poland, as they capitalized twice on two powerplays. With less than ten seconds left, Ślusarczyk would finish the game and his hat trick, doubling the lead on an empty net.

Final Thoughts

This was a fun tournament. We saw young Polish talent against ACHA and low-tier European league competition. Poland had the second youngest average age in Romania, with 19.83. They were one of only two teams, Hungry the other, with an average age below 21.75. Given the overall level of competition and the first year of this format, it is hard to take away much from the event. With that in mind, Jakub Ślusarczyk was the best player there. He led the tournament in scoring by four points with seven goals and five assists. It was impressive from one of Poland’s best prospects, especially as the 19-year-old was up against more senior players. Vasili Yerasov performed well in the tournament, coming in second on Poland in points with three goals and four assists. It also appears the Kazakhstan native has acquired Polish citizenship. University hockey is an excellent way for Polish players to get more playing time and eyes on their game, which can be hard to come by in the current Polish structure. Quite a few Poles had great showings in the tournament, and I am curious if there will be anything to come from it.

If you want to keep up with all the Polish hockey action, make sure to follow us on Twitter @PolandHockey, like our Facebook page, and add us on Instagram @PolishPuck_. Also, support us on Patreon to help keep the content flowing!

Mission Impossible No More. 2023 Men’s Division 1 Group A World Championships 5 Thoughts

A former head coach of Poland once described Polish hockey as mission impossible. Another former national team head coach said Poland was far, far away from reaching the Elite. Polish hockey is no longer mission impossible, and they’re right back in the Elite now. The dark times of the sport appear to be behind the country once again, and the future is very bright. This team only raised expectations throughout the year and then smashed them out of the park each time.

Poland came into the tournament with something to prove, and they immediately did just that. Poland opened the tournament with a dominant performance over Lithuania, putting up seven while shutting them out. The red and white did lose their next game to Great Britain. In the loss, they battled so hard and came back down from a two-goal deficit, and would later once again would overcome a second lead change after some bad luck. They never gave up and forced overtime. Sure, they lost 5-4 in overtime, but the determination and ability to change up the pace of the game so late was impressive. The next day Poland would play their best game in recent history. A devasting forechecking attack left Italy helpless, and Poland beat the tournament favorites 4-2, never once trailing. Even in a game that made me nervous against South Korea, Poland once again proved they were too good for division one with their second 7-0 shutout win. Poland would finish the tournament with a 6-2 win over Romania. Romania is the team that upset Poland back in 2019, stranding the Eagles in Group B for a few years. Poland won promotion to the Elite Division for the first time since 2002. It’s time to celebrate Poland!

The Forecheck

Usually, for years we have seen Poland be the team that tries to play defensively and safely. It is often the best course for teams to take when out-matched. Allow less dangerous shots and just hope to generate some odd-man rushes or powerplay opportunities. Instead, in this tournament, Poland played with confidence and put the message on the ice that they were the better team. The Polish forecheck was too much for any team to contain, and once Poland turned it on, teams would just be forced to easily surrender the puck. When it was clicking, Poland felt like the best team on the planet. I don’t know if that style will work in the Elite division, but it will certainly make Poland annoying to play against for any top country.

The Young Core Is Here To Lead

There was a lot made at times of Poland’s age at the tournament from new spectators seeing the squad. While Poland will certainly have some players departing the national team soon, it should not worry fans. First, Poland has some great prospect depth that is coming, and we will get more into that this offseason. Second is look who were some really key forwards for this team. Alan Łyszczarczyk (25), Bartłomiej Jeziorski (25), Dominik Paś (23), Kamil Wałęga (22), Pawel Zygmunt (23) are all in the top nine, and all are 25 years old or younger. 12 of Poland’s 28 goals came from those five young forwards. Only two members of Poland’s top nine forwards group are older than 30. Poland is a great spot talent-wise, and that core has taken the step from the future of the team to the leaders of the team.

A Career Gap

In his post-game comments after Poland’s win over Romania, captain Krystian Dziubinski remarked how a lot of guys saw this as their last shot to reach the Elite. 22 years between chances at the Elite Division is more than just one career, but most likely the average of multiple players’ careers in Poland. It sets up a very interesting choice for Poland to make next year. Do you reward the long-standing national team members who fought to get here, or do you use it as a chance to promote some younger talent, for example, Jakub Lewandowski or Krzysztof Macias? Playing at the Elite Division is the biggest scouting chance a lot of Polish players will receive. Just go back to a few years ago for proof, when Hungarian goalie Adam Vay received an NHL entry-level deal after a few strong games. Whomever Poland takes will have a tough challenge ahead of them. We can only hope that the next time Poland is in the Elite after 2024 is not another long career away.

King Kalaber and Staff

Robert Kalaber did not come to the Polish national team with the same flash and excitement as past coaches. He has proved that he is the best to come through when it comes to getting the job done. Poland has done nothing but excel under the leadership of Kalaber and general manager Leszek Laszkiewicz. Whoever worked on the powerplay is a genius after an abysmal performance the previous year in Group B. The powerplay set Division 1 Group A records for the most amount of goals (11) and efficiency (64.7%). Lastly, credit as well to goaltending coach Marek Batkiewicz who had young goalie Maciej Miarka ready for an almost emergency start in place of Murray.

What is Next?

I always end 5 Thoughts with what is next. I don’t really want to think about next anymore. Today we need to just take a chance to enjoy what has taken place. Poland has done what we were all told and probably thought would be impossible. In just two short years, they went from Division 1 Group B to the Elite Division of the IIHF. That is an insane rise that I’m not sure will be replicated any time soon. The one thought that I will offer on what is next. This feels like a massive moment for the sport in Poland. There is so much interest in the sport, and the tv numbers are strong. The tournament next year is close to Poland in Czechia. This could be the major change that helps Poland grow their number of youth players and helps the level of hockey to rise for years to come.

Quick Thoughts

  • Maciej Miarka got his first IIHF start on Friday after Murray went down close to game time. After letting in a goal on the first shot he faced, he settled in very nicely and got Poland the win. A great appearance from such a young goalie playing for such high stakes.
  • Alan Lyszczarczyk showed that he is the prince of Poland, one of the best to come out of the country in a long time. I wouldn’t be surprised if every club or scout at the event is trying to see if they can pry him away from Cracovia.
  • Bartlomiej Jeziorski had an amazing tournament. It was the best I’ve ever seen him play. He is another piece in Poland’s bright future.
  • Patryk Wronka is one of the most fun players to watch in hockey. While he is fun, that comes from how smart he is with the puck offensively.
  • Thank you all for following this year. We hit more record highs, and I’m sad another hockey season has come to a close.

If you want to keep up with all the Polish hockey action, make sure to follow us on Twitter @PolandHockey, like our Facebook page, and add us on Instagram @PolishPuck_. Also, support us on Patreon to help keep the content flowing!

A Chance to Avenge Poland’s Most Devasting Loss

When Poland was set down to Division 1 Group B just a few years ago, it was considered a minor setback. Poland would go down to Group B, win gold, and find themselves back up at the top. In their previous three tournaments before being relegated, Poland won two bronze medals and had a fourth-place finish. The sixth-place relegation seemed out of place and just bad luck. In April 2019, Poland traveled to Estonia for the Group B World Championships. They started the tournament as we expected, blowing out the Netherlands 8-1 and Ukraine 7-3. Poland clearly seemed like the favorite and would just sweep through the tournament. Their day three game was against Romania.

Romania is not a thriving program, but the sport is growing, and the results reflect that. The team kept bouncing between D1B and D2A, winning gold at the lower division before being relegated right as they returned to division 1. 2017 would see them win another D2A gold and promotion. This time in group B though, Romania would manage to stay in the Group, overtaking a falling Croatia. Romania stayed finishing in fifth place, just avoiding relegation. When the tournament started, they didn’t seem like a favorite or strong team to win the group. They were expected to be fighting to avoid relegation once again. Romania would start with Estonia on day one of the tournament and come up with a 4-3 shootout win. On day two, they pulled off a massive upset, beating Japan 3-2. Romania was now clearly a team staying in division one but had a tough match-up versus Poland left.

Poland and Romania quickly went from a throwaway game to a match that would likely decide the gold medal. Romania goalie Zoltan-Laszlo Toke would be tasked with stopping a high-powered Polish offense led by Damian Kapica. Poland took two early penalties, and Romania capitalized once, taking a 1-0 lead out of the first period. Poland would regroup, turn on the pressure afterward, and take control of the game. After two periods, the shot total was 23-14 for Poland, but the score was still 1-0. Ten minutes would pass in the third, and Poland still hadn’t gotten on the board. Things were starting to get desperate. Kapica would calm the nerves of Polish fans everywhere by scoring with just over eight minutes left.

A tie game, and with momentum, things looked good for Poland. Romania would quickly silence the crowd with another goal and take back their lead. Poland would continue their attack and try to once again equalize the game. Odrobny would be pulled, and with under two minutes to go, Poland was in full desperation mode with six skaters. Their persistence would pay off as Krystian Dziubinski scored with only 23 seconds left. This one was headed for extra time. If Poland kept up the pressure, it felt like overtime was theirs to win. Three minutes in, Poland was called for hooking and would head to the penalty kill once again. Just thirty seconds into their powerplay, Romania would score.

Poland had now lost to Romania 3-2 in overtime. Poland’s destiny was no longer in its own hands. They finished one game away from advancing to the Elite Division a few years prior. Now they would be hoping for a Romania loss, so promotion was still an option. The red and white would finish off their tournament with two wins. They would beat Estonia 3-2 and end with a 7-4 win over Japan. You could feel the energy somewhat drained from this Polish team in both games. Romania would roll through Ukraine 5-1 on day four. Then on day five, despite a valiant effort from the Netherlands, Romania prevailed 3-1. Romania finished first with gold and promotion, while Poland just went home with silver.

It felt like the darkest of times for Poland. How far had they fallen? Was Poland no longer good enough to compete in Group A. Group B was only going to get more complicated as Japan and Ukraine had great prospect pools. It seemed like doomsday had arrived for Poland. Staying at this low of a level seemed like it could be a death sentence for Polish hockey and set the country back for years. There was discussion, panic, and critique of every Polish hockey level and rule. It felt like Polish hockey needed a complete reset.

Poland would sit in Group B for a few more years as the tournaments were canceled due to the pandemic. When the 2022 tournament arrived, Japan and Ukraine were now much better squads. While the matches were close, and Ukraine even took Poland to overtime, the Eagles would prevail and return to Group A. The red and white looked terrific under Robert Kalaber, while talented young players like Jeziorski, Lyszczarczyk, Pas, Walega, and Zygmunt provided new life to the team. Poland went from their lowest point to advance to the final round of Olympic qualification, upsetting Belarus at the event, and then pulling off a fantastic exhibition season against Group A and Elite Division talent in a span of two years. Poland was now entering Division 1 Group A expecting to stay and win. Romania had managed to stay in Divison 1 Group A due to the pandemic and the suspension of Belarus and Russia. With the IIHF pausing relegation, they remained in Division 1 Group A with a 0-4 record. Now in 2023, both countries were set to face off again in Group A with a wide-open tournament.

Poland’s return to Group A came with both optimism and some caution. Expectations were high, and maybe they felt too high at times. The red and white would quickly show they were legit. They opened the tournament with a massive 7-0 victory over Lithuania. They went into the challenging part of their schedule next with Great Britain and Italy. The two teams many expected to take gold and silver along with promotion. Great Britain would take an early strong lead on Poland, with the score being 3-1 in favor after two periods. Poland would battle back, taking over in the third. They would tie the game with two late dramatic goals. The game would go overtime! Great Britain would score after a questionable tripping call on Poland. While Poland lost the game, it proved they belonged at this level. Despite the loss, things still felt hopeful for Poland, and the game against Italy was still winnable. Poland played against Italy with one of the best forechecking efforts I have seen. It felt like Poland was the better team against Italy at so many moments. The score would reflect that as Poland took down Italy 4-2, never once trailing in the game. With that win, Poland had secured remaining in Group A at the minimum, and promotion was now the likely result.

Still, I can’t lie. Going into the game versus South Korea, I felt nervous. If there was a time for Poland to choke it all away, it was against a fast South Korean team with a goalie similar to John Murray. Poland instead went out and won 7-0. A dominant victory to prove it was time for Poland to be promoted and face off with the best of the hockey world. There was now just one game left for Poland. A game where if they win, they guarantee themselves promotion. Poland’s destiny is in its own hands. In this final game, they play Romania.

The same team that upset Poland in 2019 is now the final one standing in their way. A win versus them would feel like exercising a demon. If Poland can pull it off and earn a promotion with a win. It will be something special. The TV numbers are substantial and it feels like there is a massive amount of interest in the team. Poland has a chance to not just earn promotion back to the Elite Divison for the first time since 2002. It is a chance to put Polish hockey back on the map and breathe new life into the sport in Poland. They can also do this by avenging one of their most devasting losses in recent history.

If you want to keep up with all the Polish hockey action, make sure to follow us on Twitter @PolandHockey, like our Facebook page, and add us on Instagram @PolishPuck_. Also, support us on Patreon to help keep the content flowing!

This Could Be The Year. 2023 Men’s National Team Roster Review and Predictions

This is a piece that most years I dread writing. We usually come to the preview to the end of the Polish hockey year to recap a disappointing and exhausting year of Polish hockey. From ghost coaches, equipment not being delivered to players, national team players protesting, and overall frustrating results from the national team. Plus, we had a global pandemic, and I always think back to a conversation I had with another hockey writer about the possibility of Polish hockey dying during that pandemic due to financial problems. This year is different. There is no enormous controversy for me to talk about. There is no more significant problem casting a shadow on the event. There is a lot of optimism and hope that Poland can not only compete in Division 1 Group A. They might have a solid chance to win in the tournament and earn a promotion to the Elite Division for the first time since 2002.

This is what everything has been building to, the return to Division 1 Group A. A place Poland last competed in during the 2019 World Championship cycle. That isn’t that long ago, but it feels like a different time. That 2019 team has many of the same players competing on the 2023 squad. Is this team different enough to win? Is the competition lowered enough for Poland to win? I keep asking these questions when comparing the two groups. This is a significant opportunity for Polish hockey. The momentum of fan support and excitement is there. The players are there. If they win here, it could be a major turning point for the sport in Poland.

2022 World Championship Recap

When Poland fell to Group B in 2019, it was disappointing. It felt like a dam waiting to burst had finally hit its limit. The team failed, but it was time to win Group B and be promoted back up to the top group. That didn’t happen as Poland finished second and watched Romania climb up. Another country had passed Poland in the men’s hockey world. The following two tournaments were canceled, building up more pressure for Poland to be promoted quickly. Success at the Olympic qualifiers proved what this team could do; they just needed to do it at the Worlds.

Poland hosted the five-team tournament in Tychy. I felt nervous about every game, and it didn’t feel like Poland was better than their rivals. They started the tournament strong picking up a 3-0 win over Estonia and a 10-2 win over Serbia. It showed Poland was one of the best teams, but the powerplay struggled. Mistakes you couldn’t make against Ukraine or Japan needed to be erased. Poland vs. Ukraine had me on the edge of my seat in a close battle that went into a shootout. In the shootout, Poland was up 2-1 going into the final round. They shoot first and miss. The match was now John Murray vs. former GKS Tychy teammate and Ukrainian captain Andri Mikhnov. Murray would make the save and give Poland the overtime win. This was a hard fight, which came down to a shootout, which is always a little bit of luck.

Ukraine wasn’t even the final boss. That was Japan. Japan was a team that had mirrored Poland in many ways historically. With Yushiroh Hirano leading the charge, this Japan team looked deadly. Their offense was the best in the tournament, and in their three games, Japan scored 23 goals. Poland only scored 16. Both were too good for the group, but only one could take gold this year. A scoreless first period would kick the game off both teams as equal as can be. An unlikely hero would emerge early in the second as Arkadiusz Kostek scored to give Poland the lead. That gold would hold and be by itself until Alan Lyszczarczyk added an insurance goal with under two minutes to go. Murray and Poland would shut out Japan’s high-powered offense to win gold and promotion.

2023 Preparations

The gold made some noise in Poland, and it felt like Polish hockey had officially emerged from its dark place. They were not in the light yet, but progress was being made. All focus was put into Poland staying in Division 1 Group A and if that was feasible. The red and white were set to have a long year of exhibition matches that would give us an idea of how Poland might perform. While never getting a full-strength Poland or opponent, these games were still essential to see where the bar should be set. I tried to keep my expectations low, but Poland blew past them this year after the exhibition season.

It started in October with the Baltic Cup Challenge. Poland would start the year with their day-one opponent for the worlds in Lithuania. Poland would down them a 4-2 victory, in the perfect way to start this year. Poland would play Latvia B next and convincingly won 9-0. They ended the tournament with a 5-3 win over former D1B foe Estonia. One tournament down with Poland as the winner and a great start to the year.

The national team got together next for two matches, one against Ukraine and the other against France in December. Poland would have another close battle with Ukraine but come out on top with a 4-3 win. The France game was all action and no defense, as Poland won the thrilling contest 7-4. It is not the France squad that plays in the Elite, but against a strong group, they showed the offensive potential of this team. The second set was done, and my expectations grew more.

Poland’s biggest test to date would come in February. A Euro Ice Hockey Challenge hosted by England saw the best of Group A meet with Group B. Great Britain, Japan, Poland, and Romania faced off at the final international break before playoff season. On day one, Poland made a statement by destroying Romania 8-0. A game that felt like vengeance for that 2019 Group B tournament. The next two games would sour me a bit. Poland fell to Japan in overtime with a 4-3 loss, while Great Britain took care of Poland easily, winning 4-1. It started to really make me wonder what Poland was in for. Was staying possible, but promotion not?

In the lead-up to the Worlds, Poland packed their training camp with honestly the best teams Poland might face all year. Two exhibition games against Latvia, two against Slovenia, and two more against Hungary. Three opponents all preparing for their tournament at the Elite Division. None of them had their entire roster, but they had some strong teams that would be better than Poland will see this next week. I went into these games just wanting Poland to be competitive. Poland did more than compete. They showed they belonged in the Elite Division. Poland would split the series with Latvia, winning 5-3 in game one and losing 2-0 in game two. They went to Slovenia and played hard again, taking both games to overtime. Wronka would be a hero in round one to give Poland the 4-3 win. In game two, they would lose in extra time.

Going 2-2 in those games versus Latvia and Slovenia was terrific to watch, and it started to send my hype through the roof. I was ready for Hungary to send those hopes crashing down in the final two exhibition games. Instead, Poland would defeat their rivals in front of two hot Polish crowds. The first game was a 4-2 victory where Poland controlled the game only to lose the lead late. They didn’t panic; they regrouped and scored twice more on Hungary to reclaim their double-goal lead. In game two, they would win 3-2. They found themselves down 2-1 late into the second period, but they pulled off the comeback. This team was real. My expectations were set, and they’re at a medal with promotion.

2023 National Team Roster


John Murray

Maciej Miarka

Poland has always had to rely on their goalies. John Murray has been the savior this Polish team desperately needed. There is one thing I left out about all those exhibition games. Murray only played in three of them. One game against France, one against Slovenia, and the other against Hungary. Poland pulled off this exhibition season without having Murray bail them out with a 50-save game. Both Maciej Miarka and David Zabolotny showed out. They surprised me and showed me Poland has more depth in goal than I thought. Kamil Lewartowski was impressive in his games. Poland has goalies that can hold their own outside of Murray. Murray’s ability to steal matches helped raise my expectations even more. Check out what he did in the Champions Hockey League if you have any doubts about that.


Paweł Dronia – Patryk Wajda

Maciej Kruczek – Bartosz Ciura

Marcin Kolusz – Kamil Gorny

Oskar Jaśkiewicz – Arkadiusz Kostek

Poland’s defense is not the area I would call its strength, and they need to start looking at the future of it soon. They have held their own against strong competition and performed above what I expected. This group is also getting a big boost with the return of Paweł Dronia. The DEL2 defender will make his first IIHF appearance for Poland since 2019 and first international appearance in two years. I’m curious where he will slot into the lineup. The veteterns are all here for Poland, Bartosz Ciura, Kamil Gorny. Maciej Kruczek, Marcin Kolusz, and Patryk Wajda have held it down defensively for nearly a decade. Arkadiusz Kostek and Oskar Jaśkiewicz have quickly become vital contributors to the team. This group will have its hands full with Great Britain and Italy. Dronia and Kolusz will likely be able to assist and boost the powerplay.


Patryk Wronka – Grzegorz Pasiut – Bartosz Fraszko

Bartłomiej Jeziorski – Krystian Dziubiński – Alan Łyszczarczyk

Dominik Paś – Kamil Wałęga – Paweł Zygmunt

Radosław Galant – Filip Starzyński- Mateusz Michalski

Poland only takes 12 forwards to the tournament with no Aron Chmielewski coming. This is the group Poland rides with no matter the circumstance. There are some top-end skill players, but the two significant factors are skating and two-way game. If you don’t excel in both areas, you’re not what Kalaber seeks. The top nine all feel really balanced to me and poised to make an impact in both ends. All three lines can be counted on to push the offense and generate scoring chances. The fourth is the grind line, which will make their presence felt defensively on the special team units. Alan Łyszczarczyk and Krystian Dziubiński have shown a lot of chemistry and will undoubtedly be who Poland will give the puck to when they need a goal. Bartosz Fraszko will make his well-earned IIHF senior debut after another great year in the PHL. I have a lot of trust and faith that this group can win Poland the tournament.


Head Coach: Robert Kalaber

Assistant Coach: Grzegorz Klich

Goalie Coach: Marek Batkiewicz

Video Coach: Ireneusz Jarosz

General Manager: Leszek Laszkiewicz

I have disagreed with roster choices and other decisions a few times from Kalaber. Each time so far, I have been wrong. Kalaber is the coach for Poland. He gets what the task is and how to accomplish it. I have complete faith in him as the leader of the men’s squad. Klich joins this year as the new assistant coach. He has previously served in several different national team and PHL roles. I think he is an excellent addition to the staff. Marek Batkiewicz deserves a lot of praise for the performance of Polish goalies this year. Having them all ready for tough international opponents is a huge task, especially with their lack of playing time in the PHL. Poland has built what I think is a winning staff.


I can have all the expectations of the world, but when it comes to making my final predictions, there is still plenty of doubt. You look at the roster on paper and try not to let bias get in the way. I think Poland looks and has played like a team that can win gold, but I don’t think they are the clear favorite to do that. All these teams are going to be competitive with each other. Just because Poland doesn’t go 5-0 or 4-1 does not mean they failed.

Game 1: Lithunia vs. Poland. Key Players (LTU): Mantas Armalis (G), Emilijus Krakauskas (F), Arnoldas Bosas (F)

Lithuania took the bronze medal last year in group A. It is a scary opening match, as goaltender Mantas Armlais is a top goalie in the SHL. This gives them a player who can steal any matchup, more so than Murray. Krakuaskas plays in Switzerland’s National League. His health coming into the tournament is unknown, but he will be the offensive MVP for his country. Outside some stars, the roster is pretty weak. This game is probably more even than most fans will think, but I still mark this as a Polish Victory.

Game 2: Great Britain vs. Poland. Key Players (GBR): Ben Bowns (G), Liam Kirk (F), Ben O’Connor (D)

Great Britain returns to D1A after three years in the Elite Division. This squad is much different than the one Poland knew at the IIHF level. Ben Bowns has proven himself a great international goalie and not one easy to beat. Arizona Coyotes prospect Liam Kirk made hokey history by being drafted and has already created a solid professional career quickly. He had seven goals at the Elite tournament just a couple years ago, and that ability should scare Poland. Poland and Great Britain is a game I give a toss-up rating to. I am giving Poland the win since Murray didn’t play the first time these two teams met this year.

Game 3: Italy vs. Poland. Key Players (ITA): Alex Petan (F), Thomas Larkin (D), Dante Hannoun (F)

Poland has their most challenging tasks back to back. A team that is loading up for the Winter Olympics they’ll be hosting. Italy features eight North American imports with a North American coaching staff as well. Giving them slightly more Team Olive Garden vibes than Team Italy. Italy is the favorite in this tournament. They find themselves in D1A after being relegated from the Elite Division last year. I am willing to bet that they make it back in one try. I don’t see Poland overcoming such a strong opponent in this game. This is a loss for the Eagles. Maybe you win this one out of ten times.

Game 4: South Korea vs. Poland. Key Players (KOR): Matt Dalton (G), Sang Hoon Shin (F), Sang Wook Kim (F)

Games versus South Korea are always so hard to judge. You don’t get much hockey news about what is going on in the country. They shocked Poland and Italy and upset the Women’s Worlds earlier this month. The biggest name I see still there is Matt Dalton. The import goalie has been the leader of South Korea for the past few years, putting on fantastic performances against the best of the hockey world. Sang Hoon Shin posted a 50-point ECHL season, which makes him a significant threat in this division. Sang Wook Kim has long been this team’s captain and is still going at 35. Korea finished fourth last year, and I can see Poland outplaying them with Kalaber’s structure. This is another win for Poland.

Game 5: Romania vs. Poland. Key Players (ROU): Zoltán-László Tõke (G), Yevgeni Skachkov (F), Balázs-Szabolcs Péter (F)

Poland gets to the final day with just one loss. That would probably see a bunch of scenarios for gold, silver, and promotion on the table. Romania was saved from relegation last year by no one being relegated, and they went 0-4 with just eight goals. This team beat out Poland years ago, and it appeared they passed Poland. I don’t think that is true. I think Poland is the much better squad, and this is the game I most confidently pick as a win for Poland.

Final Record: 4-1 Silver Medal and Promotion

I did the thing I hate doing the most, predicting a lot of wins for Poland. I feel it always comes back wrong, and I have egg on my face. This year I’m just too excited and optimistic about the men’s team. I’m so happy to watch them play in Group A again with such high stakes. I also want to say that the goal is staying in Group A. Not achieving a medal shouldn’t be seen as a failure. Poland has proved it can compete with the top of Group A and the back of the Elite. It is going to be a great week of hockey.

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Just a Tad Closer. 2023 Women’s Division 1 Group B World Championship 5 Thoughts

After just coming up short last year with a silver medal, the Polish national team was back. If you were to make the odds based on rosters on paper coming into the tournament, Poland would have been a favorite with Italy. This division is really even, with each team having a lot of star power that could steal a game. In most groups, there is at least one team that I would call easy or outmatched, but that was not the case in Division 1 Group B this year. This tournament was a chance for Poland to climb to Group A for the first time. They would have to do it without star defensemen Julia Zielinska and later would have to finish without their other young star. The depth of the national team was going to be tested. Could they pass the test and win gold?

Poland started off the tournament with familiar foe Slovenia. Always a hard game as you go against Yale goalie Pia Dukarič. The red and white would get off to the right start with a 2-0 victory as Sass won the battle. Game two was against the host nation of South Korea, and they lost it 4-0. The host had beaten Italy on day one, and beating Poland proved they were the real deal in this year. Poland would redeem themselves with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Great Britain. Game four was a bit close for comfort, but captain Karolina Pozniewska scored late for a 3-2 victory over Kazakhstan. This win did come at a cost, as Wiktoria Sikorska would leave with a broken rib and shoulder injury requiring six stitches that ended her tournament. The final game would come against Italy. A game I originally thought would decide the gold medal game, but now it was for the silver medal. Poland was a bit outmatched in this game; the Italians gave everything they could. Sass stopped all 49 shots from Italy, and Poland got one past Italy for the 1-0 win. A second straight tournament with a silver medal and just a tad closer to gold.

Chrapek Bombs

When playing Poland, any opposing teams should be aware of Chrapek’s bombs. The veteran Polish defender is still sending missiles from the point, which was one of the highlights of the whole tournament. Chrapek was a key part of Poland’s win over Kazakhstan, scoring twice in the game, and she finished tied second for points on the team with three. Poland needed a huge boost when they were not having the best luck finishing or generating many dangerous chances.

The G.O.A.T

Karolina Późniewska continues to prove that she is the greatest of all time. The Polish captain once again led the team in scoring with five points (2G-3A-5PTS) in five games. She was beyond clutch in the tournament and scored when her team needed it most. She would tie the game for Poland versus Great Britain to open the third, and her goal caused a major change in the momentum. With little time left vs. Kazakhstan, she scored the game-winner on a great individual effort. Finally, in the ultimate game of the tournament, with Poland almost under siege in their own zone most of the time, she would score the game’s lone goal. In this tournament, Poland kept it close at times, but Późniewska secured the wins.

What Happen Against South Korea?

Poland only allowed seven goals in five games at the Worlds. Four of those goals came in the one game against South Korea. The shot difference was plus five for Poland, with a final total of 35-30. It also wasn’t a lack of opportunities, as Poland received seven powerplays and failed to capitalize on one. It was a very frustrating game to watch. Poland had some really good chances. This game came down to two main things, in my opinion. First, Poland just couldn’t finish. Whether that is just unlucky or an actual issue is hard to say. I would say anytime you record 35 shots in a game and fail to score, it’s a bit of bad luck, no matter the goalie. Poland was third last in shooting percentage for the tournament with 4.5%. You take out this game, and Poland would have led the tournament with a 9.45% shooting percentage. It seems just bad luck and a good goalie.

The second point is that Poland struggled when playing behind. Poland would have all the momentum only to give up a goal and then South Korea would take control of the play for some time. This allowed South Korea to capitalize quick for a second time on their third goal. We also saw it late as Poland tried to pinch up their defense which Korea took advantage of for easy odd-man rushes.

The Wall of Sass

There are times when I might exaggerate Polish players, as I’m not speaking about players in terms of comparing them to the rest of the hockey world, but to Polish hockey. That is not the case for Sass. Sass is genuinely one of the best in her sport. I don’t care about the level or competition. Sass is one of the best goalies in women’s hockey, which was on full display in this tournament. Her game against Italy was a 49-save masterpiece that stole Poland a game. A game that they likely should have otherwise lost. Two shutouts in five games and was second in the tournament with a save percentage of .955%. Poland would not be where they are without her; she earned the honor of being selected Poland’s best player in the tournament

What is Next?

Back-to-back silver is an impressive and bittersweet thing. I really thought Poland had a strong chance at gold this year, and it would come down to that game vs. Italy. I think what I like about this tournament is that Poland did this while missing some key players. Not having Zielinksa was a loss, and losing Sikorska for the last two games was rough. The growing hype around women’s hockey in Poland is largely thanks to those two players who have experience in Europe’s top women’s leagues. However, Poland didn’t have and never had to rely on them for success. This is a team that plays well together and keeps improving. We are not seeing players hit developmental walls and fail to grow. Poland will be back in Division 1 Group B next year, and they will need to repeat their results from this year. That Italy game will be hard. You can’t count on a 49-save performance again. Poland will need to get better again.

Quick Thoughts

  • Tetiana Onyshchenko has been a great addition to Team Poland. She and Tomczok have a lot of chemistry and were vital to Poland beating Slovenia.
  • Brzezinska had a solid tournament scoring both her first IIHF goal and assist at the senior level.
  • Aneta Krzemien made her IIHF debut at 29 years old. We had a mini thread on Twitter about her path to the squad.
  • Wiktoria Dziwok led Poland in shots with 25 but failed to score a goal. Some rough puck luck.
  • We send our best wishes for a speedy recovery to Wiktoria Sikorska, who suffered an injury early in Poland’s game vs. Kazakhstan.

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Polish National Team Goalie Dawid Zabolotny Signs in DEL2

While many players wait until after the World Championships to sign abroad, Dawid Zabolotny has not wasted any time returning to Germany. The national team and Cracovia goalie has signed a one-year deal with EHC Freiburg of the DEL2. Zabolotny is expected to be one of three goalies for Poland at the upcoming Division 1 Group A World Championships in Nottingham, England. While representing Poland internationally, he was born in Germany and holds both a Polish and German passport, thus not counting as an import in German leagues.

Zabolotny has spent the last two seasons in Cracovia as a split starter or backup goalie. He played in 31 games across the PHL regular season and playoffs, recording a .924 save percentage and 2.64 goals against average. From 2018 to 2021, the Frankfurt native played in Germany’s third level, the Oberliga. In parts of four Oberliga seasons, he was the starting goalie for three different clubs. Before moving to Germany, he was with JKH GKS Jastrzebie in Poland for five years, and he developed in the SMS Sosnowiec system.

In the team’s announcement, Zabolonoty said, “After two years in Poland, I’m looking forward to returning to Germany and playing for EHC Freiburg. I’ve heard a lot of good things about the club, the fans, and the great city, and I’m convinced that we’ll have a successful season with the team. I’m motivated and can’t wait to meet you all at Real Heroes Arena.”

EHC Freiburg competes in the second level of German hockey, the DEL2; they have been in the league since 2016. In 2015 the club was the champion of the Oberliga. This past year the team finished eighth in the DEL2 with a 21-24-3-4 record. For the 2024 season, Czech goalie Patrik Červený is the only other netminder on the roster. He was the club’s starter last year finishing with a .893 save percentage in 38 games. Zabolotny will become the fifth Polish player to suit up for the club. In the 1980s and 1990s, the club at points was home to Damian Adamus, Jacek Płachta, Krzystof Kruczek, and Peter Schuster. Dawid Zabolotny will be the first Polish goalie in the DEL2 and the seventh overall Polish skater.

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2023 Women’s National Team Roster Review and Predictions

The World Championships are here once again! Poland will be competing in Division 1 Group B aiming for a chance at gold and promotion. The young talent has continued to improve while key veterans are returning to help Poland reach its full potential. The team has continued to rise quickly. Just in 2018 they finished sixth for the second straight year in Division 1 Group B but had avoided relegation. In 2019, the team made a major breakthrough and earned their first Division 1 medal with a third-place bronze finish. They showed they are one of the top teams in the group last year with their best performance to date.

2022 World Championship Recap

Poland started off the 2022 tournament with a 3-1 victory over Kazakhstan a returning opponent in 2023. They would best another returning opponent with a 4-0 victory over Slovenia thanks to the wall of Sass. The red and white would then face a tough defensive battle versus South Korea but then they would still prevail with the captain Karolina Pozniewska netting the game-winning goal. Poland went into their toughest challenge at the time with an undefeated record. In a back-and-forth battle with Italy, they would head to overtime where defensemen Wiktoria Gogoc would give Poland the 5-4 victory. This led to a showdown for gold and promotion with China. China had quite the advantage as with hosting the Winter Olympics they had built up a strong roster of imports, some thanks to lose IIHF import rules. Ultimately, the import-led China team would best Poland with a final score of 7-2. Despite the disappointing ending this still resulted in Poland receiving the silver medal. Their best finish of all time! It also set the goals for this year to be gold.

2023 Preparations

The squad for 2023 was prepared mainly by competing in the EWHL. Having the national team compete in the league against strong opponents is a great way to quickly build both chemistry and skill. This entire team is extremely familiar with each other and well battle tested. The EWHL season this year was a bit of a step back. Metropolis Katowice, as the team is known, missed the playoffs with a 4-13-0-1 record that was second last in the league. They had finished as a playoff team the previous year with a 9-10-1-0 season. I’m not sure if there is a player performance reason to pinpoint why the team fell. Sass started fewer games, and a few key players saw a point drop by a few. I think it is more competition based than anything with player drop-off though.

In addition to their EWHL season, Poland also played a decent exhibition schedule. It started in December with a two-game set against Italy. In the two games vs. Italy, Poland would lose both in extra time the first 4-3 and the second game 3-2. Poland and Italy are such equal competitors that at the time their last three matchups of any kind went to overtime. Poland then hosted an exhibition tournament in February bringing in Denmark, Great Britain, and Italy. Poland would fall 5-3 to Denmark, a team that goes back and forth between the Elite and Division 1A. They would rebound with a 3-1 victory over Great Britain, a country that will be joining Group B in 2023. The tournament finished with Italy winning 2-1 the first non-overtime game in a while, but still a one-goal game. Italy will be looking to win number four in a row now over Poland at the World Championships. Overall, the tournament showed Poland was ready to compete once again for gold with that match versus Italy being the big one. However, Poland would add one more game playing Great Britain in South Korea just days before the tournament. That one raised a bit of concern as the Polish squad found themselves on the wrong end of a 6-2 game. It is hard to know what went wrong in this game as there is not a lot of information. Still, it has me more on edge for their upcoming rematch.

2023 Roster

Poland departed to South Korea with a roster that saw a big player missing. A lot of key veterans are here, but some younger players didn’t make the cut. Will this team have the talent to win gold?


Starter: Martyna Sass

Back-up: Agata Kosinska

Extra: Nadia Ratajczyk

The goalie situation is secure as the wall of Sass will once again be the starter. Sass is one of Poland’s most important players and possesses the ability to steal any game in Poland. The backup spot is an interesting choice to make. Ratajczyk is likely the long-term option for Poland with her having the ability to be a future starter in my opinion. At 34 years old, Kosinska has been with the national team for a long time now and just getting better. Having a strong year in Slovakia’s top league and her experience leads me to believe that she will be the primary backup for the squad.


Natalia Kaminska – Dominika Korkuz

Klaudia Chrapek – Patrycja Sfora

Wiktoria Gogoc – Alicja Wcisło

Wiktoria Kędra

The defense is where those two key missing young players jumped out to me. The biggest one is star defensemen Julia Zielińska, who continued to play hockey in Finland and won a U20 championship. Also missing is highly regarded prospect Patrycja Wójcik who plays in Switzerland. Last year both players appeared with team Poland in big roles. The good news for Poland is all their veteran core remains intact. It really has become one of Poland’s deepest positions in terms of depth if lacking top-end talent. I think any of the longtime players could play anywhere from the top two to the top six. Gdansk defensemen Natalia Kaminska will be playing in her first Worlds since 2019, while Wiktoria Kędra is making her IIHF debut. All other players will be returning from the 2022 team.


Wiktoria Sikorska – Ewelina Czarnecka – Magdalena Łąpieś

Wiktoria Dziwok – Ida Talanda – Karolina Późniewska

Olivia Tomczok – Tetiana Onyshchenko – Maja Brzezińska

Alicja Siejka – Joanna Strzelecka – Aleksandra Górska

Aneta Krzemien

Any combination of Karolina Późniewska, Wiktoria Sikorska, and Ewelina Czarnecka will result in high-power offense. The team has great top talent and a very strong supporting cast. The top nine is so stacked with offensive talent that it is hard to fit it all. Tetiana Onyshchenko and Olivia Tomczok are stars and can play anywhere in the lineup. It is a great group and has a few changes at the bottom of the lineup. Gorska and Kzremien will make her senior IIHF debuts, at 29-years-old Krzemien is former champ in Great Britain. Siejka is making her first appearance at the Worlds since 2019. Poland is running a lineup that I really like at each level and I don’t have much concern. If Sass holds strong in net, the defensemen move the puck, and the offense produces than I don’t see any reason why Poland couldn’t take home gold.


Making predictions is hard for this year as it really comes down to just two games that have me stumped with Great Britain and Italy. Was that pre-tournament game a fluke? Can Italy beat Poland in four straight? These are questions that I had to keep asking myself. I also hate predicting gold as it feels like bad luck but that is my final prediction. I have Poland winning all of their games in regulation except for one which is an overtime winner against Italy.

  1. Poland
  2. Itlay
  3. Great Britain
  4. Kazaksthan
  5. Slovenia
  6. South Korea

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One Big Thrill. 2023 Men’s Division 1 Group B U18s 5 Thoughts

The Polish U18 squad was given a second chance at Division 1 after initially being relegated last year. This is due to the IIHF suspensions of Belarus and Russia. A new head coach was installed to lead the U18 squad as longtime PHL and Belarus national team coach Andrei Gusov took the reins just before the hockey season began. Last year felt like a golden opportunity to make some noise with so many good young stars who played abroad, but that team failed to gain any traction defensively or in net. Now the 2023 squad was almost 100% talent playing with Polish clubs. Could this new combination find a way to melt together and keep Poland in Division 1?

Poland started off the tournament with a strong foe in gold contender Austria. Poland played very well in this game, and I was more than impressed as they took down Austria with a final score of 3-1. Austria was the much better team on paper, but Poland played the game perfectly to cause the upset. They drove their opponent to take bad-angle shots and not give them much up in middle. On offense, Poland could draw penalties, capitalize on the powerplay, and generate a few odd-man rushes for scoring chances. Simply put, if Poland wanted to do well in the tournament, it would come down to their ability to do just what they did against Austria. Poland instead went out and did almost the opposite in their next few games. Slovenia overmatched and dispatched them with a 6-2 final score. A strong performance versus Italy only resulted in a 1-0 shutout loss. Then against the two opponents promoted from Division 2, Poland played their worst with another 6-2 loss, this time to South Korea, before ending the tournament with late heartbreak and a 2-1 loss to Estonia. They started the tournament with one big thrill, but it was all downhill from there.

Inconsistent Performances

The games against Austria and Slovenia are very similar on paper. In both games, Poland scored 3 goals while allowing exactly 42 shots. The big difference between the two is the opponent’s goal total. Austria scored once, while Slovenia scored six times. Was one game just a great start from Tyczyński, and the other a dud from him?

There are the two shot charts back-to-back. Austria is on the left, and the Slovenia game is on the right. In the game against Austria, Poland forced a lot more bad angle or far-away shots that were much easier to save. Against Slovenia, the opposing team could just do whatever they wanted in front of the net. I’m not sure how Poland played these two games back-to-back so differently. Especially in the end, Austria was the team that took home gold.

The Italian Game

The game against Italy is a really interesting piece of hockey to me. On the surface, it is easy to say Poland was the better team and just couldn’t finish. They controlled the puck more and led in the shot department by a decent margin of ten shots, 33-23 total. Poland just ran into the brick wall that is Italian goalie and NHL draft prospect Damain Clara. I think it paints the larger issue this group had thought-out the tournament with their inability to finish and generate high dangerous scoring chances. They had a large reliance on the powerplay, and odd-man rushes for goals, which is a lot of hockey. But against weaker opponents, you want to see their ability to gain the zone, cycle the puck, and produce on five-on-five. Poland was the worst scoring team at the tournament shooting just 7.2% on 125 shots. I think this is the result of Poland not developing many dynamic or creative offensive players.

Must-See Tyczynski

Undoubtedly, the MVP of the tournament for Poland was goaltender Igor Tyczyński. In his first IIHF appearance, he carried team Poland and was a stud in the net. His 41-save performance against Austria was head-turning. He carried that strong play throughout the tournament and finished with a .918 save percentage. He followed this up with great matches against Italy and Estonia. Now there was the matter of the Slovenia and South Korea games, where Poland allowed 8 goals between the two with him in the net. I don’t put that on him in the Slovenia game, as Poland gave him no help, and Slovenia could just walk to the front of the net whenever they wanted. Versus South Korea, he did let in two quick goals and got the early pull after less than 10 minutes of action. They were not great goals to let in, but Poland didn’t offer him much help in the lead-up. Overall, the young goalie was a bright spot for Poland in a dark tournament. He has quickly become Poland’s top goaltending prospect, in my opinion.

Maksymilian on the Map

Poland’s best forward in the tournament to me was Maksymilian Dawid. He led the team in points with four. He was especially effective in the game against Austria, where he was named player of the game, scoring twice and assisting on one. He later had a nice goal in the game versus Slovenia. He showed a lot of confidence with the puck and a good ability to rush up the ice. His play in the neutral zone was especially impressive, and he gained the offensive zone pretty easily. He had a lot of chemistry with the Hofmann brothers. There were a few defensive lapses, but overall, it was a great tournament.

What is next?

This was the first year under Gusov, and it’s a mixed bag for a grade. The team is being relegated to Division 2 and will have to fight its way back up. It will be interesting to see if Poland retains Gusov for the following season. We saw both the high of what Gusov and his style can do and the team’s larger problems. The U18 squad desperately needs some stability, and it takes over a year to build it up. The Austria game was one of the strongest games I have seen a Polish team play at any level. Italy and Estonia were solid games as well, despite the lack of finishing. The Slovenia and South Korea games were beyond ugly, and the team appeared to have fallen apart. This was a veteran team, and 12 players were born in 2005 and will be aged off the roster. The only major returning player is Igor Tyczynski. There could be reinforcements, with Hubert Szarzynski, Matthew McGovern, and Patryk Zubek all being eligible.

Quick Thoughts

  • Jakub Hofman had a good tourney and was great with Dawid. He led the squad with 14 shots, recording a goal and two assists. He got unlucky with some shots I thought were sure goals.
  • Karol Sobecki had a really solid tournament and worked well as the leading defenseman on the powerplay.
  • Poland allowed 30 goals at the tournament last year, which was cut down to just 16 this year. They also somehow scored two fewer goals, finishing with nine after scoring 11 in 2022.
  • Krystian Lisowski showed a lot of good flashes in this tournament, but I was hoping to see more. He finished second on the team in shots with 13.
  • Former PHL defensemen and current Toruń assistant coach Łukasz Podsiadło made his IIHF coaching debut serving in the same role.

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