After two years of Covid cancellations, we were finally back to IIHF tournaments. It has been a wild year, and one with a lot to celebrate in Poland regardless of how the Men’s Senior performed at this tournament. Despite that, failure would not be an option for team Poland at the event. The team that was on the cusp of playing in the Elite during the mid-2010s was stuck in Group B for a second straight tournament. Poland needed to get back in Group A, or sweeping changes were bound to occur.
Poland started off the tournament in a strong fashion. They would shut out their first opponent Estonia in a 3-0 win. In the following game, Poland took on Ukraine. Ukraine, despite playing during an extremely difficult time in their country, put up an extremely strong fight. Poland and Ukraine would stay even until the end, when eventually Poland won in a shootout. The third game was a blowout victory versus Serbia that ended 10-2. Poland and Japan were meeting on the final day with gold and promotion on the line. While Poland was the favorite, Ukraine took them to overtime and Serbia posted two goals against them. Japan was a strong team, and Poland was not unbeatable. In the end, Murray held strong and Lyszczarczyk carried the offense. Poland defeated Japan 2-0 to win gold and promotion!
We can break down every game and the concerns of the future, but first, let us take a chance to take a breath and enjoy the moment. Poland won gold. It feels good, Japan and Ukraine were great wins for the team. We all wanted to see progress out of the national team, and they no doubt showed that this year. The team was full of youth and was missing three veterans in Kapica, Kolusz, and Pasuit. We saw the new core of the team step up and win gold. Five members of the roster were making their World Championship debuts, while five more were in their second appearance. Only 12 skaters appeared with Poland at the 2018 Division 1 Group A World Championships. Poland won gold, let us be happy.
The Wall of Murray
Everyone’s favorite American in Poland did it again. Murray stopped 88 of the 90 shots he faced. He shutout both Estonia and Japan en route to Poland’s gold. He only allowed two goals against Ukraine, while also only allowing one Ukrainian shooter to score during the five-round shootout. Poland didn’t make it easy for him as well. Poland was outshot versus both Estonia and Ukraine and only outshot Japan by three. Against Japan and Ukraine, Poland only held a 2-goal lead for a minute, making every save crucial.
Poland went 1 for 15 on the powerplay, including 1 for 5 against Serbia. Poland scored 9 even-strength goals against Serbia. If Poland wants to stay in Group A, the powerplay is going to need a major overhaul. Poland had plenty of chances to close out the games against Japan and Ukraine on the powerplay but kept coming up short. Against Ukraine, this was really bad as the game was in sudden death overtime, where one goal was all that was needed. Instead, Poland’s powerplay expired, and then they gave Ukraine a powerplay of their own.
The Next Powerplay QB
One of the reasons for the powerplay struggle might have been the fact that Poland really lacks a dynamic offensive defenseman. For most of the years in Division 1 Group A, Pawel Dronia patrolled the line and racked up 29 points in 40 games. Then Marcin Kolusz switched over to the defense, revitalizing his career. Neither was at the tournament for Poland, and we might not see them play again for the national team. Only one defenseman on the national team roster finished top 10 in points among defensemen in the PHL. Maciej Kruczek finished with 21 points, which was 8th among defensemen. Only two more were top 20. Bryk finished 13th, while Jaskiewicz was 19th. As I say this though, it was a defenseman who scored the gold-winning goal for Poland.
What is Next?
Poland now heads back to Division Group A for the first time since 2018. While we can try to speculate on their opponents, we will have to see how the IIHF handles Russia and Belarus, along with changes they made with those two teams being suspended due to their invasion of Ukraine. The 2022 Group A tournament will take place from May 3rd to May 8th in Slovenia. The 2023 edition of the tournament will take place from April 23rd through April 30th in a to be determined location.
– Poland’s team at the tournament had an average age of 27.36. While the oldest in the tournament, it is the youngest team Poland has had since 2014.
– David Zabolotny became only the fifth goalie to start a game at the World Championships for Poland since 2010.
– Dominik Pas had a really good tournament, especially against Ukraine. He was always on the puck, and a huge thorn in their side.
– Poland’s penalty kill was equally as good as their powerplay was bad. Opponents went 1 for 15 against Poland’s penalty kill unit.
– Poland’s top seven scorers all played at least one season abroad as a senior. Going outside Poland helps development no matter the age of the player; Filip Komorski in his age 30 season is a completely changed player after one year in Czechia.
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