Category: Mens Hockey

MHL Leading Scorer Devin Panzeca on the MHL and Playing in Poland

Just over a year and a half ago, one of the most interesting experiments in Polish hockey began. The city of Opole welcomed Opole HK. Opole had previously had a PHL club, Orlik Opole, that ceased operations in 2019. A replacement came in Opole HK, a club run by North Americans that would feature mainly imports. With the Covid-19 pandemic running rampant and leagues worldwide closing their doors, the project gave players a chance to keep their season alive in Poland’s second league, the MHL. In their first season, the team would finish second in the league.

Despite the pandemic calming down in 2021, allowing many teams to play again, the Opole HK project continued. They were now playing in the European University Hockey League, as well as the MHL. While the team was functioning with a smaller roster, the imported talent was still good enough to make Opole one of the best teams in the MHL. The season took an even stranger turn at one point when the club attempted to sign a dog. Shortly after this incident, the team would announce they were withdrawing from both leagues.

Days after the team dispanding, there were only a few Poles, and the league’s leading scorer Devin Panzeca left.

Polish Puck: How did you get involved in Opole HK?

Devin Panzeca: I was playing NCAA d3 hockey, and my season got canceled because of the pandemic so I was looking for a way to keep playing hockey, I had known the owner of Opole HK for a long time from playing junior hockey in the states and he asked me if I would come play for him.

PP: What did you think of the Opole facilities and rink?

DP: The rink was beautiful it used to be a rink in the polish extra league and we had a team gym in the rink that we could use anytime we wanted.

PP: Opole’s old team saw quite a few players fall in love with Polish culture and the city. Did you have a similar experience?

DP: Yes Opole is a beautiful city with amazing people. In my time here I have started a family of my own as I have a newborn daughter Sarah and my girlfriend Marta.

PP: That is amazing. Congrats! Do you plan to stay in Poland going forward?

DP: I would like to stay In Poland yes, however it has been difficult to find a polish extra league team to take me as an import, so I may have to move countries for a while to build up my playing resume so I can come back here and get a contract.

PP: That is a shame. As you lead the MHL in scoring. Have there been any talks with a Polish club or one in another country?

DP: I have had some polish clubs get in contact but nothing solid to go on in the middle of the year like this, more preparing for next season. As of now I think I am going to make the move to Sweden to finish the year, as I was offered a contract yesterday.

(After this interview Panzeca officially signed with Söderhamn HC on 12/21/2021)

PP: We wish you the best of luck in Sweden! With your MHL journey finishing for now, how would you rate the league’s quality?

DP: I would say there are several really strong organizations, but there is a very big drop off to the low end many teams simply can not compete, games would often end in double digit victories which is not fun for anyone.

PP: You have played across quite a few levels of junior hockey in the states. Would you say the MHL Is close to any of them?

DP: It is hard to say as I have not played junior in almost 4 years but I would say it is probably around the level of the NA3HL with better teams being in the EHL level of play

PP: Definitely hard to make a direct comparison, especially given the MHL is a mixture of old and young. Do you think the mix benefited you or your young teammates?

DP: I would say that the league needs a change they should make it too separate divisions for young and old with the older players in the league it makes it hard for younger players to get the ice time they need to develop along with not being able to physically compete with the old, and for the older guys it doesn’t impose enough of a challenge.

We thank Devin Panzeca for his time, along with wishing him and his new family the best of luck in Sweden!

If you want to keep up with all the Polish hockey action, make sure to follow us on Twitter @PolandHockey, like our Facebook page, and add us on Instagram @PolishPuck_.

December National Team Wrap Up

The Polish national teams all played in their final tournaments of 2021. It was a crazy year for the national team, with both men and women’s senior teams creating unforgettable moments during the Olympic qualifiers. After a couple of years, we finally get to see all levels of the national team competing in the IIHF again. It will be interesting to see how teams have changed over the past few years. Especially at the junior levels, we know full rosters will have changed since we last saw a few groups and most of the national team coaching staffs have also entirely been revamped. 

Along with the return to our first regular IIHF tournament, plenty of teams continued to prepare for their years. In total five national teams were in action. The Men’s U20 team played in the first IIHF tournament of the year in the U20 Division 1 Group B World Championships. The Men’s senior team was hosting the Christmas Cup in Polonia. The Men’s U18 squad played an exhibition series in Hungary. The lone women’s team to suit up was the Women’s u18 teams. This was their final tournament before the U18 world championship in January. The Men’s U16 team was in action with exhibition games against HK Propad U16. 

Men’s U20. IIHF U20 World Championships Division 1 Group B 

Game 1: France defeats Poland 6-2 (Goals: Fabian Kapica, Szymon Mackowski) 

Game 2: Slovenia defeats Poland 3-1 (Goals: Krzysztof Bukowski)

Game 3: Japan defeats Poland 7-2 (Goals: Oliwier Kasperek 2x) 

Game 4: Estonia defeats Poland 4-3 in overtime (Goals: Wiktor Bochnak, Pawel Wybiral, Karol Sterbenz)

Game 5: Ukraine beats Poland 4-1 (Goals: Jakub Slusarczyk) 

This was a bad tournament for Poland. The team lost all five games and found themselves relegated to division two group A. This will be the lowest division group Poland U20 has played in since the IIHF established the group system. Poland U20 once found themselves on the doorstep of being promoted to division one group A with four straight silver medals. Now the team will have to fight for promotion back to division one. There will be nine returning forwards from the current squad. To read more about the tournament, check out our 5 Thoughts piece. It May Be Time To Sound The Alarms. 5 Thoughts 2021 U20 World Championships

Senior Men’s Team. Christmas Cup. 

Game 1: France defeats Poland 3-2 (Goals: Radosław Sawicki, Jakub Bukowski) 

Game 2: Poland defeats Hungary 3-2 (Goals: Łukasz Nalewajka, Radosław Sawicki, Radosław Nalewajka) 

Game 3: Poland defeats Ukraine 4-1 (Goals: Radosław Nalewajka, Alan Łyszczarczyk, Dominik Paś, Sebastian Brynkus) 

Always take these tournaments with a grain of salt, as no one comes to the tournament with their entire roster. Poland had a bumpy first two periods against France. The red and white would come alive late in the third. Poland would score two late goals before France killed off a late penalty ending the game. Poland faired much better against Hungary and Ukraine. Poland grabbed a 3-0 lead against Hungary before the halfway point. Which Hungary never was able to overcome despite two late goals. Poland scored two goals in the first 10 mins against Ukraine, and that was pretty much all that was needed.

Again while no one had their top rosters, these games do feature competition that is a step above the PHL and usually on par with Poland’s national team. So it is nice to see Poland do well. I was very happy to see Kamil Lewartowski post solid games against Hungary and Ukraine, and he finished with a .933 save percentage for the weekend. It is very cool to see both Nalewajka brothers score in a game.

Women’s U18. Olympic Hopes Tournament

Game 1: Czechia U16 defeats Poland U18 6-0

Game 2: Slovakia U18 defeats Poland U18 3-1 (Goals: Magdalena Łąpieś) 

Game 3: Poland U18 vs. Hungary U18 canceled. 

We have yet to find a rostered number for Poland in this tournament, so sorry for any missing information. Unfortunately, there was a covid outbreak during this tournament. Which saw games against Hungary canceled. This was Poland’s final test before the U18 World Champion Division Division 1 Group B begins on January 10th. Both Hungary and Slovakia play in the next group up. Staying competitive against Slovakia is an excellent sign for Poland. Especially props to Poland’s starting goalie in the game, whom I believe to be Julia Bujak. The women’s youth program continues to get more and more competitive in these matches. When this tournament occurred in 2019. Poland lost 15-1 to Czechia but did upset Slovakia 3-2. 

Men’s U18 Exhibition Matches in Hungary

Game 1: Poland U18 defeats France U18 3-2 in a shootout (Goals: Michał Kusak, Piotr Ciepielewski) 

Game 2: Poland defeats Hungary U16 6-2 (Goals: Missing. No no. roster) 

Game 3: Poland defeats Hungary U17 2-1 (Goals: Aleks Menc, Other goal missing)

Game 4: Poland defeats France U18 2-1 in a shootout. (Goals: Damian Kapa) 

Another tournament without a numbered roster, but we were able to get some goal scorers, and match them. Well not France’s and Hungary’s best rosters, it was great to see Poland pull off a clean sweep of the tournament. Both France and Hungary play in divisions higher than Poland. This wasn’t even a complete roster for Poland as well. This U18s squad should have some high hopes. Kusak and Ciepiewlewski both looked good, and were players we mentioned that the U20 team should have maybe considered. The U18 squad will finally get their next chance to play in Division 1 Group B, after earning promotion all the way back in 2019. Staying in the division would be a big deal for Poland. 

Men’s U16. Exhibitions versus HK Poprad U16

Game 1: HK Poprad U16 defeats Poland 4-2 (Goals: Karol Tymcio, Kacper Prokopiak)

Game 2: Poland defeats HK Poprad U16 4-3 (Goals: Olaf Zachariasz 2x , Kacper Prokopiak, Patryk Hanzel) 

It is always hard to judge how a team progresses when they play a junior club from another country. In the end, the main takeaway has Poland pulled off a win, along with staying competitive in the initial game. Poland did blow a lead in the first game but made a comeback in the second game. 14-year-old Zachariasz was able to put home two, while Kacper Prokopiak impacted each matchup.

If you want to keep up with all the Polish hockey action, make sure to follow us on Twitter @PolandHockey, like our Facebook page, and add us on Instagram @PolishPuck_.

A Polish Hockey Club is Trying to Sign A Dog

Now and then, I take a day off from the Polish hockey world to experience a bit of normal life. Then I come back to HK Opole of the MHL attempting to sign a dog. Paczka Kołodziej has signed a deal with HK Opole as a defensemen, pending league approval. The club’s owner owns the dog that is native to Krakow, Poland. HK Opole is hoping that Paczka will join the team in January.

Sorry to crush everyone’s dreams and hopes. This dog is not the next Adam Fox. This signing is in response to Gdansk naming former PHL forward Rafal Cychowski their head coach and registering him as a player. This makes the 43-year-old Cychowski eligible to play in the MHL. In the MHL, teams have an average age of 19.5. The league is supposed to be Poland’s top level of junior hockey. But there are no actual rules about age requirements, and Poland lacks a strong second league for senior players. This means a lot of players over 20 that are not yet good enough for the PHL play in the MHL. Due to poor junior systems, some MHL teams strongly need veterans to keep pace with other junior clubs. Growing club LKH Lodz has the highest average age of 23.39 but is 8th in the standings.

The MHL is an absolute mess. Marek Kostecki and Gdansk especially have become a mess. Gdansk has had numerous problems, including where they failed to show up for a game against Opole. Gdansk dropped from the PHL last year after failing to pay players. Many of whom they had signed to multi-year deals. They continue to hold a great hockey city hostage. 

If you want to keep up with all the Polish hockey action, make sure to follow us on Twitter @PolandHockey, like our Facebook page, and add us on Instagram @PolishPuck_.

How To Watch All the Polish National Team Action This Week

Almost all levels of Poland’s national team will be in action this weekend! It is so fun to be back in a place where tournaments are being played that has a lot of meaning to them. Right now there is a lot at stake. Olympic hopes are on the line. Along with spots on future national teams that will be representing Poland at IIHF events. It is good to be back everyone!

The highest stake matchups of this week will see the Women’s Senior team head over to Czechia to participate in the final round of Olympic Qualification. Win this tournament and a ticket is booked to the Winter Olympics. These are without a doubt the biggest games in the history of the women’s team. The Men’s senior team will also be in action playing in the Baltic Challenge Cup. An exhibition tournament that will see Poland bring an extremely young roster as Robert Kalaber aims to test some new blood for the national team. Ahead of their first IIHF tournaments in almost 2 years, the Men’s U20 will be active as well with one of the final tune-ups before the U20 World Championships start in December. Both the Men’s and Women’s U18 squads will also be in action as they prepare for tournaments at the end of the year. Along with last but not least the Men’s U16 team will also be playing some exhibition games.

When is the action happening? Where will you be able to watch all the matchups? We got those answers here!

Women’s Senior Team. Final Round of Olympic Qualification

Nov. 11th – Poland vs Hungary. 12:00 PM (CET/POL) 6:00 AM (EST/NA)

Watch: Poland – TVP SPORTS (TV) North America – Olympics Channel (Stream)

Nov 13th – Poland vs Czechia. 4:00 PM (CET/POL) 10:00 AM (EST/NA)

Watch: Poland – TVP SPORTS (TV) North America – Olympics Channel (Stream)

Nov 14th – Norway vs Poland. 4:00 PM (CET/POL) 10:00 AM (EST/NA)

Watch: Poland – TVP SPORTS (TV) North America – Olympics Channel (Stream)

We will update Olympic Channel streams as links are available. All will be posted by the IIHF here.

Men’s Senior Team. Baltic Challenge Cup

Nov. 11th – Poland vs. Lithuania. 2:00 PM (CET/POL) 8:00 AM (EST/NA)

Watch: PZHL Youtube Stream

Nov. 12th – Poland vs. Latvia. 2:30 PM (CET/POL) 8:30 AM (EST/NA)

Watch: PZHL Youtube Stream

Nov. 13th – Estonia vs. Poland. 6:00 PM (CET/POL) 12:00 PM (EST/NA)

Watch: PZHL Youtube Stream

Men’s U20 Team. Exhibition

Nov. 13th – Poland vs. Ukraine. 7:00 PM (CET/POL) 1:00 PM (EST/NA)

Watch: PZHL Youtube Stream

Nov. 14th – Poland vs. Ukraine. 11:10 AM (CET/POL) 5:10 AM (EST/NA)

Watch: PZHL Youtube Stream

Men’s U18 Team. Exhibition

Nov. 13th – Poland vs Ukraine. 1:00 PM (CET/POL) 7:00 AM (EST/NA)

Watch: PZHL Youtube Stream

Nov. 14th – Poland vs Ukraine. 4:00 PM (CEST/POL) 10:00 AM (EST/NA)

Watch: PZHL Youtube Stream

Women’s U18 Team. Exhibition

Nov. 11th – Poland vs. Iceland. 8:30 PM (CEST/POL) 3:30 PM (EST/NA)

Watch: IHI Youtube Stream

Nov. 12th – Poland vs. Great Britain. 5:30 PM (CET/POL) 12:30 AM (EST/NA)

Watch: IHI Youtube Stream

Nov. 13th – Poland vs. Spain. 4:15 PM (CET/POL) 11:15 AM (EST/NA)

Watch: IHI Youtube Stream

Men’s U16 Team. Exhibition

Nov. 12th – Poland vs. Hungary. 4:40 PM (CET/POL) 10:40 AM (EST/NA)

Nov. 13th – Poland vs. Hungary. 11:00 AM (CET/POL) 5:00 AM (EST/NA)

Watch: Stream unknown. If games are streamed it will most likely be on the Hungary Federation Youtube channel.

Light at the End of the Tunnel. 5 Thoughts Olympic Qualification

The light at the end of the tunnel is here. 

For the past few years, I have taken an approach to Polish hockey that is a bit dark at times, wondering if there is any end in sight for the downfall that Polish hockey had begun. While also stressing at the same time that there was young talent there to help build the national team. That young talent has to lead us to the light at the end of the tunnel. Poland pulled off a massive upset over Belarus. This win was mainly due to the heroics of John Murray, yes the most Polish name to ever to Polish. The team in front of Murray executed the game plan to a key. Poland was outshot by plenty. Most of the shots were forced to the outside and not key scoring areas.

Poland would drop the final two games, losing 5-1 to Slovakia and then 4-1 to Austria. While the last two losses hurt, they can’t destroy the high from the first win at the final stage of Olympic qualification for Poland.

Am I an Idiot? 

In my post dissecting the Polish roster beforehand, I criticized the overly defensive forward group that Kalaber brought to the tournament. Poland only scored three goals in this tournament, less than the six goals when Poland was in the final qualification round for the previous Olympics. Could Poland have used those goal scorers? Yes, but also Kalaber brought the players for his plan. Those players executed the plan strongly, and Poland stayed competitive and won a game. So I am going to say I was wrong there. 

Alan the Iron Man

We already have gone on about Lyszczarczyk’s outstanding play last year, especially with his 90 plus games played this past season. Now just a couple of months later, he was suiting up for team Poland against the best competition he has faced potentially in his career. He did not appear out of place, recording three assists to lead Poland in points and tied for the tournament lead in points.

Hurray Murray 

There was no doubt that John Murray was the MVP of this tournament for Poland. The American turned Pole was an absolute stud in this tournament. While the team in front of him tried to take as much pressure off as possible. He had to stop a total of 124 shots total, including his 46 save shutout versus Belarus. Polish goaltending is going to be in good hands for the remainder of his national team career. 

A Changed Zygmunt 

Polish players need to go abroad to reach their full potential. Getting the level of coaching and training that others possess will take years and money that the PZHL doesn’t have right now.  When Zygmunt left Poland, he had a lot of potential, but his game had many flaws. Ever since he started playing in Czechia, he is a changed player. Zygmunt especially knows how to use his size now, along with significant strides in his skating. He is one of the most critical players in Poland’s future. 

Pas’ Time 

This year, Dominik Pas is set to play his first season aboard in the top league of Slovakia men’s hockey. HK Dukla Michalovce is getting a good one. When Pas was on the ice, he made a solid impact and was a pain in the ass to play against. Pas’ forechecking and two-way ability gives him a complete skillset that a lot of other players lack. I’m excited to see how he will grow against stronger competition with improved training. 

Quick thoughts 

  • Pasiut is such a welcome return to the national team. Lead the team in shots on goal with 11. 
  • Penalties were low this tournament, and it was good to see, especially when the competition plays so much faster. Still some at bad times, but Poland was last in penalty minutes. 
  • On the flip side, Poland had the best penalty kill in the tournament, allowing a single goal while shorthanded.
  • I’m proud of this team. They did the unthinkable and got us all to believe the Olympics were possible, even if for a second. 
  • The young core of the national team is here. Alan Lyszczarczyk (23), Kamil Walega, Pawel Zygmunt, and Dominik Pas (21) were key players in this tournament. That is not even counting Damian Tyczyński, Jakub Lewandowski, and Jan Soltys. They’re the light at the end of the tunnel.

The First Test for Kalaber Comes With Questionable Choices

1 year, 1 month, and 27 days ago, Robert Kalaber was named the head coach of the Polish national team. On August 26th, 2021, the Slovakian coach will coach his first IIHF game for team Poland. During that time, we have seen quite a few national team games. These games have all come against pretty weak competition or depleted rosters. The biggest challenges being Hungary and Latvia U23. It was thought his first test would be getting Poland back to the World Championship Group A. Instead, he will have to finish what Tomek Valtonen started with Poland’s path to the Olympics. 

This is the second time in a row that Poland has pulled off an upset in the third round of qualification and earned a shot at the final qualification round. In 2016, Poland lost three straight games as they were expected to. The final scores of those games were 6-1 Slovenia, 5-3 Belarus, and 5-2 Denmark. While not the greatest results. These games were all somewhat close, with Poland even holding the lead over Belarus. 

Poland once again is likely to lose all three games. Their opponents are going to be hard to break. You have team Austria that will be led by top NHL prospect Marco Rossi and a squad of players mostly playing back in Austria’s bet-at-home ICE Hockey League. Next up, you have a Belarus team that continues to improve, who will feature New Jersey Devils breakout star Yegor Sharangovich and an army of KHL talent. The final team and toughest opponent will be Slovakia, a roster featuring talent from all around the top leagues of Europe. 

These games’ goal will be to stay competitive, and who knows maybe they pull off a miracle upset in one of the games. So what is the strategy to do that? Do you go all out on the offensive end and try to outmatch them with firepower or at least fight fire with fire? Do you load up on the country’s best defenders and two-way forwards in the hope of establishing a strong defensive presence and capitalize on a few rare mistakes? 

There are plenty of ways to go, and it seems that Kalaber is taking the second route. When the Polish roster was announced there were three huge forwards missing. Damian Kapica (1st among Polish players in PPG), Radoslaw Sawicki (3rd in PPG), and Christian Mroczkowski (6th in PPG). The Polish squad later announced that Kapica would be missing due to a back injury, but what about two of Poland’s best goal scorers?

Kalaber talked to Hokej.net, saying, “Sawicki and Mroczkowski are offensive players who do better with the puck than without it. At this tournament, we must first and foremost defend ourselves effectively, because there will be players from the NHL and KHL in front of us.” He continued saying that “We are not building an offensive dream team, but the strongest team that will have to play under pressure with extremely demanding opponents. That is why I gave up Radek and Christian and selected forwards who are better in defense than in attack.”

While I can understand the idea that the team will need to be strong defensively, I also have a problem with the final result of the roster. At the end of the day, Poland’s best defensive forwards will not create any match-up nightmares. At the same time, a physical power forward like Christian Mroczkowski could definitely raise some hell. It is hard to argue whom spots you would take away to add the Canadian with a Polish passport or Sawicki to the roster. I do feel you can create strong arguments for Filip Starzyński, Kamil Walega, Mateusz Michalski, and Martin Przygodzki. 

The strongest for Filip Starzyński. Starzyński is a player I believe would be highly debated if analytics were more established in the PHL. He is commonly praised for being strong in the faceoff dot and best in his own zone, but the offense is almost non-existent. Over the past two years, his .30 PPG in 102 games ranks 52nd among all Polish forwards, 163rd among all skaters. 

There is so much talent that is being left on the board. I can’t justify some choices in the idea they make Poland that much better defensively or harder to play against. In the first true test for Kalaber, when his goal is to stay competitive, it is a choice to go in without two forwards considered among the best in Poland. These are the choices that will help define his era and staff. We will have to see how it plays out.

If you want to keep up with all the Polish hockey action, make sure to follow us on Twitter @PolandHockey, like our Facebook page, and add us on Instagram @PolishPuck_.

A move back to Fort Wayne Saved Łyszczarczyk’s Record Setting Season

As we were drawing close to the end of this hockey year, it was looking like it was going to be a year to forget for Alan Łyszczarczyk. It was not the follow-up year that many had expected out of the Polish Prince. 

In 2020, the Podhale native lit up the ECHL as a rookie. He racked up 46 points in 57 games before the rest of the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only was he offensively on fire, but during the year he gained the trust of his coaching staff to earn opportunities late and in more defensive situations. The only thing that was missing was an American Hockey League call-up that never came. 

The pandemic created a rocky offseason with no one knowing who was going to be playing or what opportunities would actually be there. The Komets had made Łyszczarczyk a restricted free agent, but later traded his rights to the Idaho Steelheads. As those transactions were happening in the ECHL, Łyszczarczyk was making moves back in Europe. He had signed a tryout deal with HC Litvinov in the Tipsport Extraliga. 

This was Alan’s second tryout in the top level of Czech hockey. It ended like the first with no deal in place. Podhale Nowy Targ then brought him home, signing him to a deal with the knowledge that he would be opting out eventually to play in North America. 

Despite the fact that his time in Poland may be short, as there was a lot of uncertainty in the United States. It seemed like a star signing for Podhale, especially given how players with even less ECHL success had performed in the PHL. While he was definitely one of the team’s better forwards, he often was stuck on the lower lines of the team. Not getting many chances to truly break out. Can you blame the team though? They knew he wouldn’t be there late in the year. Still, during his 23 games, the Polish prince managed 10 goals and 8 assists. 

I don’t want to call his time in Poland a disappointment, but it felt like it should have been a bigger deal. The best Polish player of this generation was in the PHL. Especially in a year where players like Dziubinski, Kolusz, and Zygmunt played outside of Poland. The PHL lacked some Polish star power. 

2020 had come to an end and on January 2nd, it was a new chapter for Łyszczarczyk. It was announced by Podhale Nowy Targ, that he would be leaving the club and returning to North America. Łyszczarczyk was declared a free agent by the ECHL, after the Idaho Steelheads opted out of playing in the 2021 season. The soon-to-be 23-year-old signed with the Orlando Solar Bears, the ECHL affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

The Lightning are one of the best at developing through all levels of the minors. It seemed like a great fit. Łyszczarczyk was also off to a hot start scoring two goals and an assist in his first five games. He would then go scoreless in his remaining eight games with the club. He often found himself a healthy scratch during this time as well. 

On March 14th, the young Pole found himself on his technically fourth club of the year as he was traded to the Tulsa Oilers for future considerations. It was probably a welcomed change, as Łyszczarczyk struggled to get into the lineup in Orlando. 

Things would get even worse though in Tulsa. Łyszczarczyk was snake bitten, as he rocked a 0.0% shooting percentage on 38 shots. He would record a whole 4 assists in 18 games with the Tulsa Oilers, three of the assists coming in his final three games. Those final three assists were the first sign of life in his ECHL campaign in a while. 

Earlier in the year, Podhale brought Łyszczarczyk back home to where he was born. On April 19th, Fort Wayne brought him back to his ECHL home. Trading defenseman Curtis Leonard for Łyszczarczyk in a one-for-one deal. 

Ben Boudreau, the Fort Wayne Komets head coach, was once again in charge of Łyszczarczyk. The pairing worked out really well the previous year, as Łyszczarczyk’s all-around game took a huge step forward. In 2021, it was like the Polish Prince never left. In 19 regular-season games for the Komets, Łyszczarczyk recorded 7 goals and 9 assists, over double his point total with the Oilers and Solar Bears combined. 

His production continued into the playoffs, where he has recorded another three goals and four assists in the opening rounds. One of those three goals being the magic goal to send the Fort Wayne Komets to the ECHL finals. After such a long and daunting season,  Łyszczarczyk secured the Western Championship for Fort Wayne. 

His dominance continued into the finals, where he posted five assists in a three-to-one series win over the South Carolina Stingrays. The Fort Wayne Komets are the 2021 Kelly cup Champions! And one of the most crucial moves in achieving that feat was potentially an all-time franchise trade in reacquiring their Polish fan favorite. In his 30 games with the Komets, Łyszczarczyk recorded 10 goals and 17 assists. Between Poland and his first two ECHL clubs, he had 12 goals and 13 assists in 54 games. 

No one has played more than Łyszczarczyk this year, which is insane to think about. A five-team 84 game season, not including the preseason. It is 88 games, if you include his four games at the Ceska Cup with HC Litvinov. It rightfully ends with him as a champion. The first-ever Polish player to win the Kelly Cup. Also, the first to win a championship in North American hockey since Oliwa won the Stanley Cup. 

Łyszczarczyk is nicknamed the Polish Prince in Fort Wayne. Poland is his home, where he leads the next generation of the national team. It is clear though that there is just something about Fort Wayne that clicks with the prince. Almost like a second home for Łyszczarczyk.

If you want to keep up with all the Polish hockey action, make sure to follow us on Twitter @PolandHockey, like our Facebook page, and add us on Instagram @PolishPuck_.

Three Seas Sweep. Five Thoughts Three Seas Tournament.

The return of five thoughts! I never thought that this year I was going to be able to write five thoughts. After a successful PHL season though, the PZHL hosted the three seas tournament. We got to see the Polish national team in action. Poland took on Estonia, Latvia U23 (or Latvia B, they had a few veterans), and Lithuania. Croatia was also supposed to play in this tournament but dropped out before the tournament began. 

The three seas tournament was an interesting challenge for Poland. It is the second national team event of the year after a couple of exhibition games against Hungary. The last time Poland played Estonia at the Worlds, they beat them 3-2 in OT. While Lithuania is a foe that had given Poland quite a bit of trouble recently. Then Latvia was the wild card. Latvia is a great hockey country that if not for their small size, I believe would be among the best in Europe. Their U23 or B team was a wildcard roster. The team was a mix of borderline Dinamo Riga players, Latvian league and MHL standouts, along with a few vets who played outside of Latvia. Could these wildcards pull off a crazy upset though against Poland? Let us find out! 

Bizacki Breakout

Developing top defensemen has and is still a big problem for Poland. For international tournaments, it is always fun to see which young players have made big strides. Olaf Bizacki took advantage of every opportunity at the three seas tournament. The 5’7 defenseman finished with one goal and three assists in two games. He has also earned himself a spot on Poland’s roster for the national team grouping during May in Slovenia. 

A Top Forward Import

As I was writing this piece it was announced that Kazkasthan added former Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Viktor Svedberg to the national team. Poland has added a few forwards to the national team, but none had any major success. In his second appearance for the Polish national team, Christian Mroczkowski once again made an impact. This time recording one goal and two assists in three games. Poland appears to have a long-term impactful import with the Canadian winger. 

Zygmunt the New Prince? 

When a player plays overseas it can be hard sometimes to look at their stats and see them as a step ahead of a lot of Polish players. Zygmunt kinda fits that billing as his stats in the Tipsport Extraliga are not eye-popping. The physical big forward made a huge impact at the three seas tournament. He led team Poland in goals with four and added an assist on top. While his ceiling might have never thought to be as high as other Polish players he deserves to be in the discussion for the best U23 player. 

The Three-Headed Monster in Net.

In recent years, we have seen the national team have quite a few changes in goal. The latest change is Odrobny seemingly being no longer an option for the national team. The three-headed monster was set to be a two-headed one between Murray and Raszka. Murray is soon to be 34-years-old, and Raszka recently turned 31. The national team is going to need to find out who is next behind them. It seems they seem the answer to that is 25-year-old Michał Kieler. He played well at the three seas tournament and got a game earlier in Hungary. 

A Clean Sweep, But No True Test For Kalaber. 

Poland won each of these games, they beat Lithuania 8-1, Estonia 6-1, and then Latvia 4-1 to end it. All convincing victories against teams that really are not the greatest. This was an improvement on how they finished against Estonia at the last world championship Poland played in, but this was a downgraded roster. This was the correct result. This is what Poland needed to do. It really proves nothing though for the national team or Kalaber. They have a huge tournament with a chance to move on to the Olympics coming soon, I’m not saying Poland has to win that, but it needs to be competitive. We don’t really have a bar to see if Poland is better or worse so far under the current coaching staff. Hopefully, the Beat Covid-19 Cup in May will show us that. 

Minor Thoughts

  • Wronka is still the most fun player to watch in hockey and I will see no arguments otherwise. 
  • Pasuit is back in a Polish uniform and it’s good to see. Easily one of the best centers in the country. 
  • Unlucky injuries were a big story for Poland in this tournament, Oskar Jaskiewicz is going to be out for a bit, while Filip Starzynski missed the final games.

If you want to keep up with all the Polish hockey action, make sure to follow us on Twitter @PolandHockey, like our Facebook page, and add us on Instagram @PolishPuck_.

Alan Łyszczarczyk Traded to the Tulsa Oilers

In what is a crazy year that continues to be spontaneous for Poland’s best player. Alan Łyszczarczyk has found himself traded to the Tulsa Oilers. The Orlando Solar Bears have been pretty quick to make moves this year, so this trade comes as no surprise. It seems it was be traded or be cut for the prince of Poland, as the Solar Bears traded him for only future considerations, likely nothing in the ECHL.

Łyszczarczyk started the year with Podhale Nowy Targ in the PHL. He did well in the blue and yellow, recording ten goals and eight assists in 23 games. His return to the ECHL has not been as strong as the forward only has two goals and one assist in 13 games. He has not recorded a point in his past eight games. The 23-year-old recorded 46 points (19-27-46) in 57 games the previous year with the Fort Wayne Komets of the ECHL.

The Tulsa Oilers will be Alan’s third ECHL team. The Oilers are the ECHL affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks of the NHL, and with the San Diego Gulls of the AHL. They currently sit fifth in the Western Conference of the ECHL with 15 wins, 14 losses, and three overtime losses. They currently are second to last in goals for in the ECHL this year with 72. (Fort Wayne has less, but they have only played 14 games.) They have to be hoping Łyszczarczyk can recapture his scoring touch.

If you want to keep up with all the Polish hockey action, make sure to follow us on Twitter @PolandHockey, like our Facebook page, and add us on Instagram @PolishPuck_.

Wojtek Wolski Retires From Professional Hockey

Former NHL forward Wojtek Wolski has announced he is retiring from professional hockey. The 34-year-old was born in Zabrze, Poland, but his family moved abroad when he was two. He was a standout in junior hockey, leading to a successful OHL career. In the 2004 NHL draft, the Colorado Avalanche drafted him with the 24th overall pick. 

At the end of his OHL season in 2006, he immediately jumped to the NHL with the Avalanche. The 6’3 winger started his career off blazing, posting above 40 points in his first four seasons. The Avalanche would trade him to the Coyotes 2010, for Kevin Porter and Peter Mueller. Despite a point-per-game start with the Yotes, concussions would start to derail his NHL career. After disappointing production, Wolski found himself traded to the Rangers, for Michal Rozsival. The Rangers chose not to re-sign him, and then later signed for the minimum with the Capitals in free agency. During the 2012 lockout, Wolski signed with KH Sanok scoring three goals and seven assists in nine games. He returned to the Capitals after the lockout ended. In total, he put up 107 goals and 177 assists in 480 NHL games, making him one of the most accomplished NHL players to appear in Poland.

 He would spend the next six and a half years in the KHL. His KHL career almost matching his NHL career in length. This includes being out eight months after suffering a broken neck during a KHL game. Wolski would battle back and represent Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics. Halfway through the 2020 season, he would sign with HC Ocelari Trinec in Czechia, where he teamed up with Polish national team star Aron Chmielewski. The 34-year-old winger did not sign anywhere for the 2021 season. For most of the season, Wolski was on the Canadian figure skating competition show Battle of the Blades, which he would win! Following the show, Wolski continued to talk to clubs, but decided to announce his retirement on December 15th via the Spittin’ Chiclets podcast.

If you want to keep up with all the Polish hockey action, make sure to follow us on Twitter @PolandHockey, like our Facebook page, and add us on Instagram @PolishPuck_.