For the first time since 2020, we were going to see the Women’s U18 squad in IIHF action. From cancellations to movements, it was finally time to see what the future of women’s hockey looks like for Poland. Poland has been in the division 1 group B since 2017, when they took bronze in their first shot. Since that debut, they took bronze one more time but have finished fourth and fifth in the most recent tournaments. The women’s team has grown rapidly, and it was time to see if the U18 squad would continue that success.
Poland would face their toughest challenge right off the bat with Austria. In game one, they would get shut out and create a major hill to overcome. Poland would bounce back with a 2-1 win over Denmark. It would all come crashing down when the U18 squad was upset by Chinese Taipei in a game where they overshot their out by over 50. They would end the tournament on a high note securing second place with a 2-1 win over South Korea.
Failure to Finish
The biggest story of the tournament for Poland was the lack of scoring. The red and white would only score five goals in four games. This gave them, on 152 shots, a shooting percentage of 3.29%, half of the next team. Over 100 of those shots came from just five players, who also produced all five goals. Poland just couldn’t finish high danger chances. It is definitely a bit of just bad luck. But also disappointing given the forward talent in the lineup for Poland. Going 1 for 13 on the powerplay has to be addressed as well.
The biggest failure to finish came in the game against Chinese Taipei. Poland fired 68 shots on goal and only scored a single goal in a game that went into overtime. First, hats off to Ai Chung, who was sensational and stopped 67 shots. That is an amazing performance and deserves a lot of praise. For Poland, how could you not score? This game officially ended Poland’s small chance for a gold medal in what should have been an almost guaranteed win. It wouldn’t be Polish hockey without an extremely frustrating game…
I was really interested in who would be Poland’s starting goalie in this tournament. Julia Bujak and Nadia Ratajczyk had played sparingly in the PLHK on powerhouse teams. Ratajczyk got the starting role and ran with it. She only allowed 8 goals all tournament, including a great game against Denmark, where Ratajczyk made 19 saves and earned player of the game honors. If you take out the one weird game against Chinese Taipai where she only faced seven shots, she finished with a .914 save percentage.
While the goal of a tournament is always to take home gold. This is the best finish in history for Poland’s U18 squad. The highest before this tournament was taking bronze, so silver feels sweet. It is crazy to see a team have a negative goal differential finish second in a tournament. While the offense did not produce, the team as a whole controlled the games they were in for the most part. It was another sign of progress for Polish hockey.
Is the Future As Bright?
Whenever progress happens, it is always interesting to see if that progress will continue. This team will compete again in December or January if the 2023 tournament stays in its usual spot. They will be without quite a few key players in that tournament, including Alicja Kobus, Alicja Mota, Anna Kot, Amelia Bula, and Julia Zielinska. There was still eligible talent that proved themselves in this tournament, including starting goalie Nadia Ratajczyk and leading scorer Maja Brzezinska.
- Anna Kot and Natalia Nosal really were great on the backend in this tournament.
- It was another tournament with a lot of evidence that the top of Poland is a lot better than the depth with a wide gap.
- Magdalena Łąpieś had a bit disappointing tournament production-wise and took 6 minor penalties.
- Congrats to Magdalena Czaplik and Dominik Kraus on making their IIHF coaching debuts.
- Former Unia Oswiecim player Monika Szpyt-Jucha, also made her IIHF staff debut as team manager.
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