After a couple weeks of rumors, Poland has announced Andrei Gusov as the next head coach of the Men’s U18 team. The Belarussian head coach is very familiar with Polish hockey, with six years as a player in the PHL and five years as a head coach. This was a hire that I have pitched a few times in articles dating back to 2019. In my opinion, Gusov was the best option Poland could realistically get to take over the men’s U18 squad.
Gusov is not just experienced with Polish hockey, but he also played for a long time in Belarus’ top league, along with the second and lower leagues of Russia. During his playing career, he also represented Belarus on the national team stage, representing his homeland at multiple World Championships and the 1998 Olympics. The 52-year-old had a long career that spanned the peak of Polish hockey and its decline. The Minsk native played in Poland from 1995 to 2000 for Cracovia Krakow, KTH Krynica, Podhale Nowy Targ, and SMS I Warszawa. During his club time in Poland, it was when the national team was at its best, and he knows what team Poland could possibly reach.
Right as his career ended in 2005, he went right into coaching. His first year of coaching was in the Belarus second league and as an assistant coach for the country’s U18 squad. He would serve as an assistant for the U18 team as well in 2006 and would take over as the head coach for 2007. In his one year as head coach, they would earn gold and promotion to the Elite U18 division of the IIHF. He would later become the head coach of Belarus’ U20 team and lead them to silver at the 2009 Division 1 Group U20 World Championships. He is a coach with junior IIHF experience in divisions well above where Poland is currently at. In five game tournament, you have less room for mistakes and less time to make choices. Having experience with tournament play can really help a coach.
While the junior IIHF experience is excellent, he has never really coached junior hockey. From 2006 to 2009, he was the head coach of Keramin Minsk. In 2010, he would reach his highest level as a head coach. He served as the head coach of Dynamo Minsk in the KHL after their initial head coach was let go in mid-October. After one year at the top level of Russia, he would return to Belarusian Extraleague and be in charge of Shakhter Soligorsk for seven years. During this time, he also served as an assistant coach on the Belarus Men’s senior World Championship team twice. Since 2018, Gusov has served as a head coach in PHL with GKS Tychy and Podhale Nowy Targ. While he is a well-decorated coach with two Belarusian Extraleague titles and one PHL championship. The lack of junior hockey coaching concerns me. He has become very familiar with junior Polish players in his last two PHL seasons. Nineteen U23 players appeared for Podhale Nowy Targ last season.
Gusov, to me, was the best coach Poland could get to take over the U18 squad. The biggest thing I wanted in a new coach was someone with experience in stronger hockey countries, and he has a lot of that from his time in Belarus. Gusov is going to hopefully be able to implement a new training and development system that will help U18 players grow. At the end of the day, the U18 and U20 tournaments are dress rehearsals for the senior team. Poland stays even with other countries at the youth level but starts to fall off in the most essential years once a player hits 16. Not to mention, with the U18 squad almost being relegated again, Gusov does have results in leading IIHF junior teams to medals. He knows Polish hockey, experience outside Poland, and has had success in the IIHF junior divisions. His resume checks all the boxes for me besides club junior hockey experience.
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