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.
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.
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
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
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.
- Great Britain
- South Korea
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