Category: Mens Hockey

Game Day Preview. Poland vs. Estonia 2019 D1B Men’s World Championships

Poland takes on Estonia on Day 4 of action at the Division Group B World Championships. Other matchups are Japan vs. Netherlands (6:00 U.S. EST) and Ukraine vs. Romania (9:30 U.S. EST).

Time: 1:00 U.S. EST/ 7:00 CEST

Stream: IIHF Youtube Channel

Game Notes 

– Poland and Estonia have not faced off at the World Championships since 2013 when both teams were in Ukraine for the Division 1 Group B tournament. Poland won 5-3.

– Pawel Dronia made an instant impact on the score sheet in his first game with 2 assists. He also took a crucial penalty late in Overtime, which Romania would score the game-winning goal on. In an interview with hokej.net, he called it his worst performance with the national team.

– Damian Kapica scored his 6th goal of the tournament. He is only the 15th player in Poland history to score 6 or more goals in single World Championship. He is the first since Damian Slabon scored 6 in 2002-2003.

– Damian Kapica now has 8 points at the tournament. He is the first player to have 8 or more points since Pawel Dronia and Marcin Kolusz both had 8 in 2012-13

– Estonia comes into this game after a 5-2 defeat to Japan. They lost in overtime to start the tournament vs. Romania. They won their second game 4-1 against the Netherlands.

– Estonia goaltender, Villem-Henrik Koitmaa, ranks second in the tournament in save percentage with .907%.

Standings as of Day 2

  1. Romania 7 points
  2. Poland 7 points
  3. Japan 6 points
  4. Estonia 4 points
  5. Ukraine 3 points
  6. Netherlands 0 points

Romania currently holds the tiebreaker over Poland, after beating them in overtime 3-2.

Scoring Leaders as of Day 2

Top 5 Points

1. Damian Kapica (POL) 8 points

2. Andri Mikhnov (UKR) 7 points

3. Vitali Lyalka (UKR) 6 points

4. Bartłomiej Neupauer (POL) 5 points

5. Alan Lyszczarczyk (POL) 4 points

5. Andrei Markov (EST) 4 points

Goals Leader: Damian Kapica (POL) – 6

Assist Leader: Andri Mikhnov (UKR) – 3

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for live updates of the game!

Game Day Preview. Poland vs. Romania 2019 D1B Men’s World Championships

Poland takes on Romania on Day 3 of action at the Division Group B World Championships. Other matchups are Netherlands vs. Ukraine (6:00 U.S. EST) and  Japan vs. Estonia (9:30 U.S. EST).

Time: 1:00 U.S. EST/ 7:00 CEST

Stream: IIHF Youtube Channel

Game Notes 

– In their lone exhibition matchup this year, Romania shutout Poland 2-0. It was Romania’s first win against Poland since 1980

– Pawel Dronia will be joining Poland’s lineup for the game. Dronia did not play in the first 2 games because his club team, Ravensburg Towerstars, was still in the DEL 2 playoffs. The Ravensburg Towerstars won the DEL 2 championship. This is Dronia’s 2nd DEL 2 championship.

– Damian Kapica’s 5 goals vs. Ukraine on Monday make him only the 38th player in Poland history to score 5 or more goals at any World Championships tournament and first since Tomasz Malasinski in 2015-16. He currently would be tied in 4th place for goals for with Japan and Ukraine.

– Damian Kapica is the first to score 5 goals in a game for Poland since 2004. Prior records are unavailable.

– Damian Kapica also had 2 assist in the first game, this gives him 7 total points. That is the most points a Polish player has had at the World Championship since 2013-14 when Leszek Laszkiewicz and Krzysztof Zapala each had 7 as well. The last time a player recorded more than 7 was Marcin Kolusz in 2012-13 when he had 8.

– Bartłomiej Neupauer had 4 points in two games at the World Championships. He had 4 points in 6 other international games this year. His 8 total points with the national team this year lead the team.

– Poland’s 3 youngest players; Bartlomiej Jeziorski, Alan Lyszczarczyk, and Mateusz Goscinski (LW/RW) are all 21. They also all have contributed offensively so far. Lyszczarczyk leads the way with 4 points, followed by Goscinski with 2 points, then Jeziorski with 1 point. 

– Romania comes into the game with two huge upsets. On day 1 they beat host Estonia 4-3 in a shootout. On day 2, they shocked Japan with a 3-2 win in regulation. They currently sit second in the standings with 5 points.

– Romania goalie, Patrik Polc, has stopped 61 out of the 66 shots he faced this tournament. That is the most among any goalie.

– Romania is currently perfect on the penalty kill not allowing a goal on 6 penalties.

Standings as of Day 2

  1. Poland 6 points
  2. Romania 5 points
  3. Estonia 4 points
  4. Japan 3 points
  5. Ukraine 0 points
  6. Netherlands 0 points

Ukraine currently holds the tiebreaker over Ukraine for 5th place.

Scoring Leaders as of Day 2

Top 5 Points

1. Damian Kapica (POL) 7 points

2. Alan Lyszczarczyk (POL) 4 points

2. Bartłomiej Neupauer (POL) 4 points

4. Andrei Markov (EST) 3 points

4. Filip Komorski 3 points

4. Robert Rooba 3 points

Goals Leader: Damian Kapica (POL) – 5

Assist Leader: Alan Lyszczarczyk/Marcin Kolusz (POL) – 3

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for live updates of the game!

It Can Not Get Any Darker Right Now, But Is it the Darkest Before Dawn? 2019 Poland National Team Roster Thoughts

I won’t lie; there is not much positive around the men’s national team right now. Everything that could go wrong is seeming to. I usually try to be more positive and look for the good. It is hard to do that right now with the state of the national team.

The Season

It is kinda hard to believe how well things appeared to be going at the start, to be honest. The Euro Ice Hockey tournament was a success for Poland on the ice. With Valtonen at the helm, the team looked sharp in their game against a much better Denmark team. They even held the lead til that game had to be suspended due to poor ice conditions. The rest of the tournament wasn’t that bad either. Poland was able to at least hold their own against much stronger competition. They lost to Norway 4-2. In the loss, they mounted a comeback after being down 3 goals early. Bartlomiej Neupauer scored at the 34-minute mark to bring Poland within one, and it would remain that way till there 5 minutes left when Norway added an insurance goal. Austria would shut Poland out 2-0, but the shot margin was only 13 with the final shots being 37-24. Again not cause to celebrate, but a sign Poland could still compete in Division 1 Group A if they get promoted back like most believe they will. This came at the same time as a protest from Polish players, who rightfully want better working conditions. Add in the fact their point was further proven when Noureddine Bettahar was injured at a practice for the Euro Ice Hockey Challenge. The concussion kept him out of action for a while and kinda detailed what initially was a strong comeback campaign in the DEL 2. Given the weak roster, it was encouraging, especially for the new head coach Tomek Valtonen. I mean Valtonen was able to get a pretty good performance out of a team featuring a lot of players who previously never were in the national team consideration. It was enough to somewhat overlook some of the national team problems at the time while hoping for a solution to be reached.

The competitions after the first Euro Ice Hockey Challenge were not as good for Team Poland. The first of these was taking the team to Finland to face off against two Mestis teams. This trip reminded me of Ted Nolan’s trip to Canada, where Poland lost to a Canadian college team and a semi-pro squad. Poland faced off against TUTO hockey and KeuPa HT. Poland lost both games by one goal, taking TUTO hockey to overtime. Adding two more losses to the winless national team on the year. For reference about the strength of the two squads. TUTO Hockey finished 5th, and Keupa HT finished 8th. As of writing this both teams made it out of the first round of the league playoffs and are still playing. These trips never look good on paper, but I do believe they are a good experience for players. The big thing is that you just have to temper your expectations and really realize the divide between Poland and top countries like Canada and Finland. It does suck to see your country lose though to competition that is not near the national team of the league’s nation.

 

In February during the second international break, Poland was not entered into a second Euro Ice Hockey Challenge. The national team instead played in a small tournament in Ukraine. This had them taking on Ukraine and Romania. The first game went as it should with Poland easily defeating Ukraine 5-1. There is not much to say about the game other than being the first national team win of the year. The second game is the story of this tournament as Poland was shutout by Romania 2-0. The first loss to Romania since 1980. An inexcusable performance and a team Poland should never lose to. How do you expect to get promoted to Division 1 Group A with loses to Romania? They are in Poland’s group this year for the Worlds. It was only a hint of things to come for Poland against their future Worlds rivals though.

Hungary and Poland. The largest rival of the national team. Two hockey countries that are heading in vastly different directions and I don’t think it showed as much til their exhibition games this year. Yes in these games Poland was playing with the lesser squad since the PHL finals were going on, but it is only eight players and for sure not the eight best. The first game was fine. It was not the best game ever by Poland, but they took Hungary to the shootout and loss 2-1. The shots were 45-35, but overall a good result versus a stronger team. The only way to describe the second game was embarrassing for Polish hockey. The final score was 4-2 with the shots being 53-17 in favor of Hungary. Add in 39 penalty minutes for Poland, and you get just an awful performance. A performance that shows Poland doesn’t belong in Division 1 Group A.

Now the final test before the World Championships. Poland playing a team that will be their rival in Group B in Lithuania. The first game Poland would win 6-5 in overtime only after some late-game heroics. Sure they won, but not at all the performance that you would want to see. Poland had one more chance to fix this before the World Championships and show who team Poland really is. They lost 3-0. Poland has now been shutout twice this year by their Group B competition.  This loss was deflating. That is the best way to describe it. The men’s national team has been this long combination of things building up, and this loss is the thing that finally breaks the dam open. It would not shock me at all if Poland failed to get promotion this year and stayed in Group B.

The Drama

During the season though, it felt like the hits kept coming towards Poland’s way. Whether it was injuries or players just merely hanging up on their national team career. In total 6 players will never represent Poland again. This includes one of Poland’s best centers with Grzegorz Pasiut. Strong role players Jakub Witecki and Radoslaw Galant will longer help a Poland forechecking and defensive line. Imports whose national team careers really never got to be fleshed out in Mike Cichy and Alex Szczechura. They will no longer potentially have the impact that imports have had for rivals like Great Britain or Kazaksthan. All of the players that are done with the national team are under 32 years old. This really put a massive dent in Poland’s forward depth.

This last month though has pretty much been the roughest for Poland. Like these disputes and problems that arise only happen in Poland it seems. I cover and follow other international hockey and the things that pop up in Poland never cease to amaze me at times.

Both involve new head coach Tomek Valtonen. It was announced previously during the year that Valtnonen would be leaving Podhale after one season as coach in the PHL. Now, this was concerning and a bit of disappointment. Part of the selling points for Valtonen as the head coach of team Poland was the fact that he would be in Poland year round. This was a huge problem during the Ted Nolan season, and it was clear Nolan pretty much had no idea of the players or where he was coaching. Valtonen though was going to be here and see all the players in the PHL. This was important as we all know the players outside the PHL like Dronia or Chmielewski will make the team alone on their pure permit. They don’t have to be scouted. There are no tough decisions with them. The tough decisions come with players that are inside the PHL as there is not much that separate them. There are differences between them to create the best possible roster, and unless the head coach is in Poland full time, he won’t be able to see that. The national team right now has a single player who played outside of Poland this year, and it’s Poland’s best young talent in Łyszczarczyk. Outside of him, all other 22 players are in the PHL. The head coaching job relies heavily on knowledge of the PHL. Valtonen leaving is bad from that side, but it does become a bit more suspect. The reason announced why Valtoenen was leaving was he missed his family, but the next job he takes is in the DEL 2? Did something go wrong with Podhale? Was there something wrong with Poland? It is the questions that get raised.

The second issue that involved in Valtonen and is, of course, something that I believe could only happen in Poland is the equipment issue. After a hard fought finals players from Cracovia Krakow showed up without their equipment as their PHL team would not be sending it. Leaving the players without gear to play in. This has led to national team defensemen Maciej Kruczek having to leave the national team and take his name out the of running. Another hit to Poland’s defensive depth. Valtonen offered to pay for the equipment with his money but said he never got a reply. Only for Cracovia to show text messages showing they replied.

57251112_427888657990583_2293079221108473856_n

I am sure that if I dug deeper, I could find the precise answer and stories to these events, but I have no desire to. It feels so much like the dumbest combination of egos, pettiness, and silly high school drama that I really have no interest in covering it. This was going on at the same time as the Women’s World Championships and Men’s U18s Championship’s two more important things I invested my time in. In the end, they will go down like most drama in Poland, both sides saying something different and accusing each other of lying. Much like Mike Danton or Wojiech Stachowiak. I mean Valtonen was obviously given a raw deal or tougher job than Nolan here with how many players seemingly quitting the national team after being so fed up with the PZHL so let’s just draw it even.

The biggest question that comes up with Valtonen team is why is there not even the slightest thread of consistency. How are they able to lead against Denmark, but get shutout by Romania and Lithuania? There were similar tones under Nolan. The inconsistency of this team is astounding. How does it feel to be a player in that locker room right? Knowing how many guys that you fought with, blocked shots for, or had your blood spilled for have quit for valid reasons. You see the team that once fought for promotion to the top division fall to teams that fail to get promoted to Group A. How does it feel in that locker room right now?

Injuries

Besides the players who hung up their national team career like always, Poland is facing a rash of injuries and other events that will further decrease the depth of the national team. Pawel Dronia and Aron Chmielewski will both not be with the team as their club team is still in the playoffs. Both are playing for a championship so depending on how long the series goes will determine when or if they join. Krzysztof Zapala will not be with the team so he can be with his wife during the birth of his child. Huge congratulations to Krzysztof and his family on the new child. His veteran presence will be missed though, and add in even in his late 30s Zapala could get it done offensively.

On the injury side, Poland took their hits as well. Bartosz Fraszko is out. Which really is a shame. The 23-year-old has always been highly regarded but was really starting to put it together. This would have been his senior IIHF debut, and against some lower division, it would be an excellent way to ease into the national team. The bigger hits came on the defense were Poland will be without three defensemen; Damian Tomasik, Jakub Wanacki, and Mateusz Rompkowski. Tomasik is a big let down for me, I have been a fan of his game for a while and last year was his first shot, but he was playing injured. Tomasik was initially ruled out for the tournament last year but played through his ailment after more injuries hit the squad. Wanacki has been a key part of Poland’s defense since 2013-14, he has played in 4 of the 5 world championships. Rompkowski is the most significant loss. He is a great veteran defender. He has been a staple of team Poland for 11 years, playing for the team in some IIHF capacity whether at the Worlds or Olympic qualifiers. Poland’s defense can be really rocky at times, so losing national team staples is quite scary.

The Final Roster

Thanks to hokej.net we have the final roster for Poland. Here is it by position and defensive handedness. There are only two players on the roster with right-handed shots which struck me as odd. Players in bold are making their senior IIHF debut.

LW C RW
Tomasz Malasinski Patryk Wronka Mateusz Goscinski
Szymon Marzec Filip Starzynski Mateusz Michalski
Bartlomiej Jeziorski Alan Lyszczarczyk Damian Kapica
Adam Domogala Filip Komorski
Bartlomiej Neupauer Krystian Dziubinski
Defense L Defense R
Marcin Kolusz Mateusz Bryk
Oskar Jaskiewicz
Patryk Wajda
Bartosz Ciura
Arkadiusz Kostek
Robert Mrugala
Goalies
John Murray
Przemysław Odrobny
Ondrej Raszka

This is my projected line up as the rosters sit right now. If Dronia or Chmielewski are available, they are automatically first paring or line for me.

LW C RW
Tomasz Malasinski Patryk Wronka Mateusz Michalski
Krystian Dziubinski Filip Komorski Damian Kapica
Bartlomiej Jeziorski Alan Lyszczarczyk Mateusz Goscinski
Adam Domogala Filip Starzynski Bartlomiej Neupauer
Szymon Marzec
Defense
Marcin Kolusz Mateusz Bryk
Oskar Jaskiewicz Patryk Wajda
Bartosz Ciura Arkadiusz Kostek
Robert Mrugala
Goalies
John Murray
Przemysław Odrobny
Ondrej Raszka Third Goalie

 

Forwards

For all comments that I will be leaving for players, I’m not really going to suggest players that I think are snubs or should have made it over a different player mostly because with the state of the national team it is hard to say who will play. If they would have played though, I would have loved to see Dominik Pas and Jan Soltys get a chance with the national team. Both had previously played on some of Valtonen’s squads.

Adam Domogala – Domogala is finally making his IIHF senior national team debut. A debut that a lot thought would come a lot sooner. At 19-years-old, Domogala was able to be above a point per game in the Oberliga. He signed in the DEL 2, but there was never able to capture his scoring touch. He moved to the PHL in 2015-16, but still faced some offensive struggles. This year he posted a new career high points and a solid playoff run. It appears he is finally turning the corner. I’m really excited that he is getting his IIHF chance.

Alan Lyszczarczyk – Currently the most important player in Polish hockey. A lot of Poland’s future success relies on his development. Lyszczarczyk had a career year in his final OHL season. I would imagine we see him sign in the Czech league this offseason if no North American professional offer materializes. Last year, he got his first taste of the national team and will be joined be Jeziorski, whom he has shown a lot of chemistry with at junior events.

Bartlomiej Jeziorski – Jeziorski will be making his 2nd IIHF senior team appearance. Quite the impressive accomplishment for only being 21. He has dominated the IIHF at junior stages and been quite the scorer in the PHL, while his production this season was not at the levels many would have hoped for. I feel this more due to the strength of the GKS Tychy offense were Jeziorski just got the short end of the stick for playing time and offensive opportunities. His chemistry with Lyszczarczyk will be fun to see at the IIHF stage.

Bartlomiej Neupauer – seems to get a lot of love from coaches outside of Poland. Nolan gave him his first national team chances last year, and Valtonen continues to provide him with opportunities as well. Neupauer has done well in those chances recording five goals in 18 games with the national team making him one of the team’s top scorers in that span. National team coach Tomek Valtonen described him as a player he could count on. Something I feel we see in a lot of roster choices in regards to Podhale players.

Damian Kapica – one of the most talented forwards in Poland. Kapica has been able to score some stunning goals. He really has some solid puck handling skills and great offensive instinct. A really strong player that would probably best serve the team anchoring his own 2nd line.

 Filip Komorski – he made his senior national team IIHF debut last year and would score one goal. He had a really good year offensively reaching point per game mark in the regular season. He is the exact kind of solid player that this Poland team is lacking. He isn’t going to lead the team, but can play on any line and not be out of place.

 

 

Filip Starzynski – previously one of Poland’s best prospects, Filip had a rough go awhile. He took a whole Freshman year off from hockey. Then in his three seasons at Northern Michigan, he never was able to get going on the score sheet much. He played mostly a 4th line center shut down role. He was good in the faceoff circle, and I expect him to play a similar role for Poland.

Krystian Dziubinski – Valtonen gave a lot of praise to the 30-year-old forward. Citing his hard work and character. He also named him the polish player who would excel the most in Finland. Dziubinski has been a staple of the national team since he was 21. His consistent play is really unmatched.

 

 

 

Mateusz Goscinski – Another young player getting a chance at the biggest show of the year for team Poland. He and Jeziorski have been a nice young combo of polish forwards for GKS Tychy. I slot him on that line with Jeziorski and Lyszczarczyk. Let the kids run wild.

Mateusz Michalski – Another player who was able to impress Valtonen from their time in Podhale. Michalski was able to quickly pick up his system according to Valtonen. This is a desirable trait given the mismatch of players for Ted Nolan’s scheme. Michalski will be killing penalties for Poland along with being able to contribute offensively. He gets the first line nod for me given his size, and defensive ability should be able to compliment Wronka and Malasinski nicely.

Patryk Wronka – the best Polish player in hockey right now. No one matches the offensive creativity of Wronka on team Poland. When he was not available for the team last year, it was a huge blow. Current rumors suggest that Wronka maybe leaving Poland with interest from Belarus, Slovakia, Great Britain, and Germany (DEL2) per hokej.net. Wronka should carve up the competition at this event, and it will be fun to see.

Szymon Marzec – probably the most unheard of forward. Marzec is not a great offensive player and never posted substantial offensive numbers in the PHL. He actually had never received any national team attention til this year. He has played four games for team Poland and recorded one assist. He is the odd man out on my line up, and I do not see him playing a significant role.

Tomasz Malasinski – On a team that is missing so many veterans players while having some many young and or debuting players, Malasinski continues to the perfect safety blanket for Poland. Always an offensive leader on the team, like Wronka expect some decent offensive production.

Overall I like the offense this year. Obviously, there are some misses or other choices I would make like Pas, but I also can’t really argue against most players. It may not be stronger than teams in the past, but given the situation it is fine. There is a nice infusion of young players and veterans, along with players that know Valtonen’s system.

Defense

Much like the last one, I’m not really going to name snubs or alternatives. The defense has taken a lot of hits and given Poland already didn’t have the greatest defense there is a lot of concerns.

Arkadiusz Kostek – this is a pick that worries me. He has never really shown much potential in the PHL but is still young. He is a solid player there, but on the national team, he may struggle. There isn’t much to say with him.

Bartosz Ciura – he has been apart of team Poland for the last three world championships. He currently is still looking for his first senior point after 43 games. Not a lot of offensive potential another defensive only guy that this defense is full of.

Marcin Kolusz – Kolusz for a long time one of the best forwards for the national team, but for Valtonen he has become a defenseman. I like the move. It opens up a spot on the roster while creating two-way defensemen. His year on defense earned high praised from the national team coach, Valtonen described him as the best defensemen in the PHL. It will be interesting to see how does with his first IIHF test on defense.

Mateusz Bryk – Bryk is another veteran national team defender that Valtonen has to use. Bryk is mainly a defensive guy but does have some offense to his game. He is usually good for one or two points in tournaments for the national team. Bryk will likely be relied on heavily for this team, especially with Dronia’s availability being questioned.

Oskar Jaskiewicz – I have long been a fan of his game. At 22-years-old Jaskiewicz gets to make his senior IIHF debut. He plays a strong two-way game and is precisely what this Polish defense is lacking a lot of. I felt he should have made team Poland last year, but he was left off the roster. Jaskiewicz spent the year in Podhale, so Valtonen has had a long look at him. Jaskiewicz and Valtonen got off to a rough start according to the coach, but by the end of the season, Jaskiewicz gained confidence was the leader on Podhale’s defense.

Patryk Wajda – Wajda is another longtime member of the national team, who should really help bring some consistency to the team. He doesn’t bring much offensively but has a nice defensive game. He is another player who played for Valtonen in Poland this year. He described as a trustable player, who could work on his conditioning. His conditioning led to him getting fewer chances in the playoffs.

 Robert Mrugala – This is my least favorite pick on the entire roster. Mrugala has a total of three points over the last three seasons regular seasons and playoffs. As someone who likes defensemen to have some kind of offensive ability, three points in 104 games is not really appealing to me. Mrugala is another player who Valtonen is familiar with Podhale. Valtonen was surprised by how well he played, and how many chances he earned.

This is the group that I have the most doubts with. There are a lot of question marks with them. This group could end up being the Achilles heel of the team. They really need to work on suppressing shots, but if they don’t, their goalies still could bail them out.

Goalies

There is no position that Poland has more depth or better players at than goaltender. There are about six players who could start for Poland, but the top 3 are pretty easy to identify. In this tournament, I imagine Poland will be going back and forth between their two goalies. An amazing stat about these goalies is they all finished first in the PHL for sv% as part of a three-way tie at .939 sv%.

John Murray – Muray is my favorite of the goalies, this comes down to how aggressive and how well he plays the puck. He honestly is one of the best on Poland at breaking the puck out sometimes. Murray is one of two imports on the national team roster this year, the other being fellow goalie Ondrej Raszka. He is really connected to Polish culture more than most imports in the IIHF. Well, I believe they will be splitting starts, I do think Murray will only play 2 of the 5 games.

Przemysław Odrobny – Odrobny will be getting the extra start of the two. He is the most popular face in Polish hockey, and one of the best personalities. A legend of the national team and one of the best goalies in Poland if not the best. At 33-years-old, there is still a lot left in the tank. He also has the full trust of the national team coach Valtonen, who he played for this year in Podhale. Valtonen called him the best goalie in Poland.

Ondrej Raszka – Raszka will be left as the third wheel again. At 29-years-old he has yet to make his senior IIHF national team debut even as a back up despite being named to the roster plenty of times. Raszka is an extremely talented goalie, and it does suck seeing him having to sit all the time unless an injury occurs. He would be starting most of the competition at the Worlds except for Lithuania.

Easily the most talented group on the team with plenty of depth to spare. Never any worries when it comes to goalies in Poland.

The Dawn?

It was thought that the darkest point was the Ted Nolan year and being relegated to Division 1 Group B. It was believed that the dawn was hiring Valtonen. It briefly appeared that things were stepping in the right direction, but it was too dark to see what the direction the steps were being taken in. If Poland stays in Group B is that the new darkest or can it get worse? What are the signs of light that we should follow to see the dawn? There are quite a few things that should be considered lights.

  1. Promotion – Getting promoted would put a lot of the recent darkness to rest. I want to give Valtonen and his staff some slack. They are playing with a team that is definitely not as strong as past squads through no fault of their own. The same thing that I said with Nolan is true for them as well. It takes time to get players into a system and mistakes will be made during that period. Hopefully, most of the major errors are gone for the World Championship. Getting promoted would prove all the doubts wrong and put Poland back where we hope they belong in Division 1A competing for a chance at the Elite division.
  2. Young Talent Does Well – There is a lot of young talent on this roster, and so far in exhibition games, they have done well offensively. If they do well, especially in Valtonen system, it is an excellent sign. Poland has seemed to be stuck in the past too often. Not promoting their young stars, while clingy on to players who won’t get any better or are at the end of their prime. There is a really nice core of young Polish players, and quite a few are on this roster. It could be a really bright light for Poland’s future.
  3. Looking at Poland’s prospects –  This one doesn’t involve the World Championships at all. Poland has a lot of great prospects right now who have the skill to play in high levels outside of Poland. Adam Kiedewicz is expected to make his DEL debut at 19 next year. It will be the first time a member of the Polish national has played in the DEL since 2016-17 and only the fourth Polish player this decade. Jakub Lewandowski has had a fantastic year in the top Czech junior league finishing 27th league scoring as 17 years old, which was 8th best among U18 players. He is NHL draft eligible next year. Damian Tyczynski led the Slovakia U20 league in scoring by 18 points. He is forcing his way on HK Propard’s pro team next season. Szymon Bieniek and Klaudiusz Libik maybe the best under 20 defensemen in Poland, both are only 17. They did great in the Czech and Norway junior leagues. Then in Poland Jan Soltys and Kamil Walega lead PZHL U23 to actually being a respectable team that was able to beat professional teams. Soltys is a player you could see drafted in the CHL import draft after reviving interest last season. There are a lot of bright young Polish players who will add to the already good young core lead by Wronka, Łyszczarczyk, Jeziorski, Pas, and others.
  4. New Super League and Tournaments – When Poland was relegated last year, a lot of attention got directed to the PHL. Was it the best place for Polish players? Was it the best for Poland hockey? Now changes have come to the league being more opened to imports increasing the quality of play. Teams will be competing against more teams outside of Poland. GKS Katowice and Podhale will be playing in the Visegrad Cup, GKS Tychy in the Champions Hockey League, and Cracovia in the Continental Cup. There is talk about Polish clubs joining two super leagues one made up of teams from Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia or one with teams from Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine. Much needed change is coming and being discussed. The change is likely to be seen within the next few years.

We will find out soon if it can get any darker for Poland, but if this year is not the dawn, there are plenty of reasons to suggest that dawn is coming. My final expectation is for this team to get promoted even if the road to gold is a bit rockier than people expected. This team is facing a lot of adversity, and that is going to put a chip on their shoulder. One that I think they eager to have while proving people wrong.

National Team taking on Mestis teams and A Polish Club in the Slovakian League? December 12th, Notes

Today in the Polish hockey news cycle, Poland will be playing the first of their two games against Mestis clubs and Tipsorts Liga officials are in Poland to talk about GKS Tychy joining the league next season.

Mestis Games

First, Tomek Valtonen and national team squad are heading to Finland to take on TUTO Hockey and KeuPa HT. Both of these clubs play in the Mestis. The Mestis is the second best league in Finland and should be a good test for the senior national team. There was also supposed to be a Chinese team for Poland to play against, but due to visa issues, the Chinese team canceled. The roster for the team also experience some changes as Aron Chmielewski and Bartłomiej Bychawski are injured and will be replaced by Szymon Marzec and Marcin Kolusz. These tests are much are like the one’s former national team coach, Ted Nolan, did when he took the team to Canada to take on a Canadian university and an Allan Cup Hockey league team.

GKS Tychy to Slovakia

Representatives of the Tipsport Liga are in Poland today to talk about GKS Tychy joining the league, and maybe even a larger merger between the PHL and Tipsport Liga.  The Tipsport Liga is the top league in Slovakia. The league has already accepted two clubs from Hungary. They are currently doing decent fairing 8th and 9th in the league. I have no doubt that GKS Tychy is a stronger club than them and feel they could do even better in the league. Having a team play outside of Poland in a higher league would be a big step for Polish hockey and something that needs to happen. More teams joining would be even better, but it could be very risky.

Lipinski Starting

I wondered if there was a chance Jakub Zawalski, would get the start for Poland today against Japan, but team General Manager, Roch Boglowski responded to me on twitter with today’s starting goalie.

Summed Up! November’s National Team games.

This past weekend all 5 of Poland’s teams that compete at IIHF were in action. The teams were playing their first games together as they get ready for their IIHF events later in the year. Before the weekend recap, a reminder of this year’s World Championships!

Mens: Division 1 Group B April 28, 2019 – May 4, 2019 in Tallin, Estonia.

Women’s: Division 1 Group B April 6 – 12, 2019 in Beijing, China

Men’s U20: Division 1 Group B December 8-14, 2018 in Tychy, Poland

Men’s U18: Division 2 Group A April 7 – 13, 2019 in Elektrenai, Lithuania

Women’s U18: Division 1 Group B January 6 – 12, 2019 Dumfries, Great Britain

Men’s

The men’s team hosted an EIHC and well it was something. The Polish team was missing a lot of talent, as a lot of top talent is boycotting the national team right now. This left Poland with a very young team. The battle with the player association wasn’t the only problem for the PZHL at this tournament. Before the tournament started, Noureddine Bettahar, a Polish national team forward, took a puck to the head in practice and is still in a hospital, due to the injury. On the first day, Austria’s equipment didn’t arrive and their opening match was postponed till later in the day. The first game was between Poland and Denmark would be suspended at the start of the third period due to bad ice conditions. Austria’s and Norway’s game was never played due to the ice issues. The decision was made to just forget about the first day’s games. Poor attendance was also something that got pointed out a lot. Gdansk is a great hockey city and the PZHL failed to capitalize on it. Off the ice, this tournament was a failure for the PZHL, but on the ice, it was a success. Poland had a very young squad with fill-ins being borderline national team players or making their senior team debut. This team stayed competitive in all 2 2/3 games that they played and while their competition didn’t bring their top rosters, the competition is better than what Poland will face at the World Championships. Valtonen definitely appeared to be the right coach for team Poland.

Poland 1 – Denmark 0 (Play suspended at beginning of the 3rd period)

Poland 2 – Norway 4

Poland 0 – Austria 2

Women’s

The Women’s team traveled to Latvia for 2 exhibition games against Latvia. They dominated both games that finished with a goal differential of plus 12 for Poland. Latvia is in Poland’s group at the World Championships, so it is something you love to see. Kamila Wieczorek scored 6 goals in the two games.

Poland 6 – 1 Latvia

Poland 7 – 0 Latvia 

Men’s U20

The U20 team played in a 3 game tournament against Ukraine’s U20 squad and BFSO Dynamo a team of u20 players that compete in Belarus’ third league. Poland blew past Ukraine but struggled early against Dynamo. They would prevail beating Dynamo 4-3 though, securing first place in the tournament. The starting goalie job at the World Juniors should be Sebastian Lipinski, that is for sure. The U20 offense produced like I hoped it would. Poland should have a very strong showing at the U20s this year.

Poland 6 – 1 Ukraine 

Poland 4 – 3 BFSO Dynamo (Overtime)

Men’s U18

The Men’s U18 team played a couple games in Slovakia. They would win the first one against HK ŠKP Poprad U18, but lose the second game to HK Dukla Trencin U18. There isn’t much to say about these games other than it is good practice and this won’t be the final roster. 

Poland 5 – 0 HK ŠKP Poprad U18

Poland 1 – 5 HK Dukla Trencin U18

Women’s U18

The Women’s U18 team hosted a tournament with Spain, Great Britain, and Hungary participating. The women’s team definitely has a bright future with Wiktoria Sikorska and Zuzanna Baran being especially impressive in this tournament. Poland would finish 2nd in the tournament suffering one loss to Hungary.

Poland 3 – 0 Spain 

Poland 3 – 2 Great Britain

Poland 1 – 4 Hungary 

#FinnishTheJob. A look at the New Finnish Faces In Polish Hockey

Tomek Valtonen checked off all the boxes when Poland was looking for someone to lead the national team. An underlooked thing about coaches in hockey is when a coach gets hired, who will they bring with them. This is usually an assistant coach they have worked with or a player they have played with on their staff. Ted Nolan brought Tom Coolen aboard with him to Poland. Tom Cooolen had served as assistant coach on Ted Nolan’s Buffalo Sabres and Latvian teams. Tomek Valtonen has brought more than just a couple former assistants with him. More Finnish players are singing in the Polish Hockey League this year than ever and it appears the Finnish style of play is something the national team could be shaped around. That brings us to our hashtag for the Tomek Valtonen era, #FinnishTheJob credit to Andrew Zadarnowski for coming up with the pun. We all know Tomek Valtonen by now, and if not click here, time for us to meet the rest of the Fins in Poland this year.

Risto Dufva

Risto Dufva is a legendary Finnish coach. His trophy case says it all, 2 Olympic medals, 2 World Championship medals, 4 World Junior medals, and one Liiga championship all as a head or assistant coach. Dufva starting off his hockey career as a goalie and made it to the Liiga, the top league in Finland, for a handful of games, but mostly played in the lower Finnish leagues. His coaching career is far more what he is known for. Dufva started coaching in 1991-92 as goaltending coach for JyP HT in the Liiga. He has been coaching for 27 seasons. During that time he has been a head coach for 4 Liiga teams and Finland’s World Junior team, an assistant coach on Finland’s Olympic, World Championship, and World Juinor teams, goaltending coach for their U18 team and various other coaching jobs. He has simply done pretty much everything in Finnish hockey coaching wise. Last year, he coached Jukurit in the Liiga and served as team consultant for Slovenia. Now, he will serve in a team consultant role for Poland.

Tommi Satosaari

Tommi Satosaari was Tomek Valtonen’s pick to take over as the goalie coach for Poland. Satosaari is a former goaltender in the Liiga and across various other lower European leagues. He retired in 2011 after spending the 2010-11 in the Allsvenskan and EBEL. In 2012-13, he served as a goaltending coach for Peliitat in the Mestis. After that Satosaari went off the professional hockey radar for a bit til popping up in the United Arab Emirates in 2016-17. He played in the UAE hockey league for the Abu Dhabi Storms and served as an assistant coach for the UAE national team. Satosaari has already started training Polish goalies and focusing on the youth. As of the publish date, he is currently in Poland running a camp for goalies born from 2005-2008. He also will be watching some PHL games and see the PZHL U23 team in action.

Players in the PHL

Coming into the 2018-19 season, there were 25 Finnish players in the history of the PHL according to Elite Prospects. This season there are 11 Finnish players on PHL teams, only one of them is not in their first season. 5 of the 11 play for the PHL team Tomek Valtonen coaches, Podhale Nowy Targ.

Joonas Sammalmaa – Sammalmaa is one of the five mentioned Finnish players to join Tomek Valtonen in Poland. Sammalmaa currently has 12 points in 10 games. Before signing in Poland the 27-year-old left winger was a part of JYP in Finland playing for both their Liiga and Mestis, the second best league in Finland, team.

 

Joona Tolvanen – If the last name sounds familiar that is because it is. Joona is the brother of Eeli Tolvanen, a first-round pick of the Predators regarded as one of the best prospects in hockey. Joona Tolvanen signed in Poland after splitting 2017-18 with two clubs in the Mestis. The 26-year-old has played forward and defense in his career.

Eetu Koski – Koski is a 26-year-old two-way center and is off to a good start in the PHL with 11 points in 12 games. Before this year, Koski spent the last two seasons in the Liiga with Saipi putting up 7 points in 53 games.

Eetu Moksunen – Moksunen is a 21-year-old defenseman and PHL marks his first extended taste of pro hockey. Moksunen is a defense-first defenseman and could be a long-term player in Podhale defense. He is definitely someone Valtonen can help develop.

Ali Liikanen – Like Moksunen, Liikanen is still young at 22. The forward is playing professional hockey for the first time in his career. Last year, he had 27 points in 38 in the SM-Liiga, Finland’s top junior league. Liikanen needs to develop his game more and is off to rough start in the PHL with only 2 assists. But again like Moksunen, he is another project for Valtonen that has a quite a bit of potential.

Jesse Rohtla – The 30-year-old center is the lone Finnish player, who played in the PHL last season. He put up 53 points in 38 games with GKS Katowice, which made him the regular season scoring leader. He is now in his second season with GKS Katowice. Before this year, he played most of his career in the Mestis.

Janne Laakkonen – Laakkoenen is coming to end of his career at 36-year-olds, but is proving he still has plenty of scoring left as the left winger currently has 22 points in 14 games with GKS Katowice. Before coming to the PHL, Laakkonen spent most his career in the Liiga recording 335 points in 493 games. He also has represented Finland nationally on a few occasions.

 Eetu Heikkinen – Heikkinen is the final Finnish player on GKS Katowice and the offensive defenseman is making quite the impact with 19 points in 17 games. This has him tied for first in defensemen PHL scoring with Martin Cakajik. Heikkinen mostly played in the Mestis before signing in Poland but also had stints in Italy, Sweden, and Kazaksthan. His ppg is above .40 in every league he has played in except for the Liiga.

Juha Kiilholma – the newest Finnish to arrive is also the biggest name. Kiiholma is a former longtime Liiga center with over 700 games to his name. His 754 games ranking 26th in all-time Liiga history. The 36-year-old now comes to Oswiecim where he’ll be a nice fit with Andrej Themár, one of the best forwards in the PHL.

 Iiro Vehmanen – Vehmanen is also pretty new to Oswiecim only getting in two games so far. The 29-year-old defensemen spent a lot of his early pro career in the Mestis. He started playing outside of Finland in 2014-15 when he played in France. Vehmanen has also suited up in Germany and Hungary.

Tuomas Tolonen – the final and only goalie on our list. Tolonen bounced around lower pro and junior teams in Finland before joining IPK in 2015. During the 2015-16 season, he helped IPK get promoted to the Mestis then saved the team from being relegated in 2016-17 by posting a .941 sv% in 8 relegations games. He helped IPK reach the Mestis playoffs the following season. Now, he has signed in Poland to guard the goal for Orlik Opole. He has struggled to start the season, but Opole as a whole has struggled and they sit 10th in the league.

So to all the Fins now in Poland, Tervetuloa Puolaan!

5 Thoughts. GKS Tychy in the Champions Hockey League

GKS Tychy has been eliminated in the group stage of the Champions Hockey League. Since they’re done its time to look back on their run in the first 5 Thoughts of the 2018-19 hockey season.

And it’s sweet, sweet, sweet victory… yeah

GKS Tychy became the first ever Polish club to win a game in the Champions Hockey League (CHL). This was also the first time a Polish club ever even got points in the CHL. The victory came in an exciting back and forth duel with HC Bolzano. GKS Tychy never once trailed in the game but did lose the lead 3 times. Michael Cichy would lead the way for GKS Tychy with 2 goals and 1 assist. In the end, mission accomplished Poland didn’t lose every game, which is a big boost for the Polish hockey league.

Super Szczechura

Szczechura was GKS Tychy’s best player in the CHL. He scored or got an assist in all 6 games. Szczechura finished with 3 goals and 6 assist in 6 games. He came into today tied for 4th in the CHL for points. Szczechura is easily one of the best players in the PHL and one of the best player the national team has. It is a shame that passport issues have prevented Szczechura from representing Poland on the IIHF stage. Szczechura would be able to play full time in a stronger league no doubt, and hopefully, his performance in the CHL made some teams see that.

Cichy’s Goal

This just deserves its own point it was so filthy.

 

Lewartowski Gets His Chances

GKS Tychy has two young goalies with Kamil Lewartowski and Jakub Zawalski, but they also have one of the best PHL goalies with Johny Murray. I didn’t expect anyone but Murray to suit up Tychy in the CHL games. Lewartowski did suit up though and played decent during his time, even besting John Murray in terms of save percentage. Lewartowski is player to be watched in Poland’s future at goaltender after Murray (31) and Odrobny (32) are gone, it is wide open.

A Great Event for Polish Hockey

There have been quite a few times that strong European clubs have greatly questioned the participation of clubs like GKS Tychy in the CHL. These small hockey clubs from small hockey countries just are not big draws and the games can become lopsided. The CHL games are great for these small countries. They help grow the game and its vaulable experience. The win was a big deal for Poland, beating an EBEL Champion is a great sign for the PHL and Polish hockey.

Small Thoughts

– Congrats to, Italien club, HC Bolzano making it to the CHL playoffs. Cool to see small hockey country success even if it goes against Poland.

– Andrei Mikhnov was pretty disappointing and should have seen his role decline.

– If GKS Tychy were to get a third match against a team from a Liiga, I would bet on them.