For the first time since 2019, the World Championships were back. After two years of COVID cancellation, we finally got to see the Women’s senior team play at the IIHF World Championships again. It has been a while since we have last seen the team, and a lot has changed. Poland got in a team in the European Women’s Hockey League, and numerous players went outside Poland to develop their craft. This team was coming off qualifying for the final round of Olympic Qualification for the first time in team history as they upset the Netherlands. Could the team continue to make history in 2022?
Poland got off to a hot start right away defeating the oldest team in the tournament, Kazakhstan, 3-1. In game two, it was a huge goaltending battle as Sass took on NCAA goalie Pia Dukaric, Sass would come out on top as Poland beat Slovenia 4-0. Next up was South Korea, which had been a thorn in Poland’s side during the 2019 Worlds. Korea remained a thorn, but not too much as Poland won 2-1. Game four saw Poland take on Italy, which had defeated Poland in 2014, 2017, and 2018. This time, for the first time, Poland took down Itlay after some overtime heroics from Wiktoria Gogoc. This win set up a winner take all game five between Poland and group favorites China. Unfortunately, China would win that game easily after a strong first period with a final score of 7-2.
The 100 Club
Both Karolina Pozniewska and Klaudia Chrapek hit the 100-game mark for the Polish national team. An amazing and rare achievement. Especially when you consider the women’s senior team has only been active in the IIHF since 2011, only 49 games at the World Championships. Their dedication to growing the game in Poland is inspiring, and both have already left an amazing legacy while continuing to help Poland reach new heights. When they played their first games for team Poland, the team started all the way down in Division Two group B. Now Poland is on the cusp of Division 1 Group A, in just a decade.
Wall of Sass
Sass continues to dominate the game. She went toe to toe with some great goalies in this tournament and came out on top all but once. If you take away the game versus China, Sass stopped 97 of the 103 shots she faced, a .942 save percentage. Sass was named the best goaltender of the tournament, and probably turned some heads in the scouting world with her performance at the Worlds and with her club teams. She had to make some really tough saves at the Worlds as well.
Poland’s defense was completely overmatched at this tournament. It was not the entire lineup, but it was a major problem. It hurt the team massively and wasn’t just against China. It really stood out versus Italy and South Korea as well. All tournament teams would generate big chances off massive mistakes by the Polish defense. It wasn’t a matter of bad positioning, it was just bad awareness and decision-making. Something you would hope would improve as players gain more experience but this was a problem with quite a few veterans.
A Complete Offense
While defensively, there may have been some bad plays, Poland’s defense stepped up huge in the opposing zone for the most part. The whole offense seemed to play with a lot of confidence. Poland scored the second-most goals in the tournament with 16, five more than second-place Italy. The forward group was making plays, while the defense launched quite a few shots from the point, in fact, five of Poland’s eight defensemen scored a goal at the tournament.
The Silver Lining
Poland took home silver. They lost to a China team that is more North American than it is Chinese. The import rules need not apply in the circumstances China got and it sucks. The IIHF thought it was fine to let a team that posted two wins in the elite division just play back down in Group B. Poland and Itlay both played at the Olympic qualification tournament this past year, and were killed in the final round. The second the imports returned it was China’s tournament. Poland would have to play more than perfect to survive, but they had a rough first period and it quickly became 6-0. Poland would only allow one more goal the rest of the way. China was only held scoreless in a single period the whole tournament and that was the second period versus Poland. A 7-2 defeat against a team that can win at the elite level is a sign of progress.
A silver medal is the best Polish finish of all time. While you can be upset about the China game, what Poland did in this tournament still made history, as they have done all year. Last year it was a bronze medal, now it is the first silver medal in Division 1. They beat 16th ranked Italy, the highest-ranked opponent Poland has ever defeated. On top of all that, Poland was the second youngest team at the tournament. They’re going to be back next year for gold.
– Olivia Tomczok only played in three games, her missing the final two hit the team’s forward depth hard. A great forward even scored in game 1 against Kazakhstan.
– In her first tournament for team Poland Ukrainian import Tatiana Onyshchenko looked great. She added one goal and two assists.
– Dominika Korkuz really made some great plays in this tournament and picked her corner perfectly on her first national team goal.
– Former national team forward Magdalena Czaplik served as the equipment manager for the team. This was her first senior team staff appointment, congrats to her! She has been working behind the scenes for the U18 squad since 2018 while her playing career was still active.
– Julia Zielinska’s offensive game is really getting to the next level. Really has a chance of being an elite two-way player.