For the first time in their young history, the Polish women’s senior team found themselves with Olympic hopes. They headed into the final round of Olympic qualification with their heads held high after an upset win over the Netherlands. This meant Poland would face top competition, the best they have ever faced. Poland is currently 19th ranked in the world, while their competition was Czechia (7th), Hungary (10th), and Norway (13th).
Everyone expected blowouts going in, but that doesn’t make them easier to watch. In the end, Poland dropped all three games by a decent margin. Poland lost to Hungary 11-1, then Czechia 16-0, before the final that Norway took 7-1. It was a sobering experience for a program that experienced so many highs recently. A reminder that while women’s hockey in Poland is expanding at a rapid rate, there is a lot left to do.
A hot start at least.
In a tournament where Poland had a goal margin of negative -32 would you believe me that Poland held an early lead in their first game. This was thanks to a Julia Zielinska shot that resulted in a great rebound for Wiktoria Sikorska. Through half a period, Poland had not allowed a goal and was able to take a lead. Hungary would finish the period with a 3-1 lead. The red and white also managed 8 shots on goal which would be the most a period for Poland in a tournament. It was one of the few periods that showed Poland had a chance to stay competitive.
It is not often that hockey in Poland gets to be televised. There are maybe a few PHL games that get broadcasted, while the Men’s national team also usually sees its larger games reach the nation. This time both rounds of the women’s Olympic qualification were on TV, I believe these are the first women’s national team games to be on TVP Sport. Hopefully inspiring the next generation to take up hockey! While the ratings were not great, at an average of 25K for the final round. The games where Poland won in the previous round did over 60,000 and 80,000 respectively. If you want to get viewers in Poland you have to win.
The Young Core
By the time the next Olympic cycle comes around in 2026. 16 members of this team will be 28-years-old or younger, 5 being U23 still. The young players were a key part of the team. Sikorska was one of only two goal scorers while leading Poland in shots with 10. Zielinska recorded an assist while leading Polish defensewomen in shots. Ida Talanda centered the bottom lines, and Lapies was able to make the team at just 15-years-old.
Sass has always been team Poland’s savior. Keeping them in games they have no reason to be in. That was still true for this tournament. Sass faced over 125 shots, the most in the tournament by over 25. She allowed 25 goals in 3 games. 7 of the goals against came when Poland was shorthanded. I mean when the shot chart looks like this. What are you supposed to do?
On to the Worlds
After the tournament, coach Ivan Bednar told IIHF.com, “I’m very pleased with how we played here this week, we knew what we were coming into when we qualified for this group, and that it was going to be a difficult task and I think we handled the situation well.”
Again everyone expected the blowouts, it hurts to see. But the growth of the women’s side in Poland has happened so quickly. It is crazy you still have members of the first team to play IIHF events playing with players like Sikorska and Zielinska who play in leagues probably thought to be decades away at one point. More and more young Polish players are getting chances outside Poland as well. The EWHL and strong programs continue to develop players in-house. Playing deep in the Olympic qualifiers is a new high for Poland.
We now move on to the Worlds for this group. Poland will be facing much more even competition. Italy (16th), Korea (17th), China (20th), Kazakhstan (21st), and Slovenia (23rd). The last time we saw this group play at the Worlds, they took Bronze. I would say that is the expectation with a goal of silver.
- For the tournament, we saw two new coaches behind the Polish bench. Former national team and Gdansk player Joanna Detmer stepped in as an assistant coach. While former Slovak Tipsport Liga goalie Lubomir Babura was the team goalie’s coach.
- Other staff news, congrats to former GKS Katowice goalie Kamil Berggruen on his first IIHF role as equipment manager.
- I am not one to ever care about faceoffs, but both Pozniewska and Wieczorek managed to stay at or get close to .500. This is surprising given how most of Czechia and Hungary were 60% or more.
- Tetiana Onyshchenko was not present for this tournament. The Ukrainian forward is believed to be picking up Polish citizenship.
- Sorry for not posting and for late posts recently. A new job and life after college does not afford me the same writing time.