Category: Womens Hockey

Julia Zielińska To Be The First Polish Woman to Play NCAA D1 Hockey

While Poland has seen a few big moves today as the PHL transfer window closes, the most significant move out of Poland today was a history-making college commitment. Julia Zielińska has made her NCAA commitment to Bemidji State University for Fall 2024. She will be the first Polish woman to play NCAA division 1 hockey when she suits up for the Beavers during the 2024-2025 season. The defenseman has already made history for Poland, being the first to appear in Finland’s top league, the Naisten Liiga, and now she will make more history in North America. This is another massive step for Polish hockey!

The 18-year-old defenseman has been moving up the ranks and lineup in Finland for Kiekko-Espoo since 2020. She previously started her career in the Naprzod Janow system before moving to Slovakia with Popradske Lisky. This current season has been her most successful in Finland. In a career-high 26 Naisten Liiga games, she has 15 points (3G-12A-15PTS). This ranks 19th among all defensemen and the fifth most for U20 defensemen. She has also quickly become a staple of the Polish national team. In 2022, she represented Poland at the Olympic Qualifiers and Senior World Championships.

The Bemidji State Beavers have played in the NCAA’s division 1 since the 1999 season. They play in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association and sit last in the conference for the 2023 season. A strong two-way defenseman like Zielińska should be a huge help. They have been coached by Jim Scanlan since 2015, who previously assistant coached the Men’s teams at the University of North Dakota and Western Michigan University. Polish top prospect Jakub Lewandowski plays for Bemidji State’s men’s team. This obviously means that Bemidji State is Poland’s favorite college hockey team.

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5 Thoughts: 2023 Women’s Division 1 Group B U18s. Second Silver.

For the second time this hockey season, we saw Poland’s women’s U18 team compete at an IIHF event. This was a much different group from the one we saw in September. The U18 squad lost some stars and legends of the program, like Anna Kot, Alicja Mota, and Julia Zielinska. That team we saw in September took home silver and felt like they were inches from gold. For Poland to replicate or improve on their success, they would need more jumps by the new core or some amazing debuts. Would they get either in this five-team tournament?

Poland started off the tournament with a match against familiar foe South Korea. Poland immediately proved why they should be a tournament favorite with a 6-0 victory, including two goals from Stepien. This was the first sign of the new offensive leaders stepping up in big ways. In their second game, Poland got their biggest test with Denmark. After a rough second period, Poland would fall in this one 3-1. The tournament’s story was Danish goalie Caroline Bjergstad, who stopped 90 shots of the 93 she faced. This included a 36-save game against Poland. With Poland likely eliminated from the tournament, it could have been easy for them to give up. Instead, they kept their foot on the gas and would win their final games against Spain and Chinese Taipei, both 4-0. This would give Poland a second straight silver medal, but this time with 10 more goals scored and five fewer allowed.

3 Shutouts

Nadia Ratajczyk had a solid showing at the last tournament, but there was room for improvement. There is not much more to improve on when you post three shutouts in four games! It was a great performance for the young goalie. Now in the three shutouts, she only faced 36 shots, including only seven vs. South Korea. Still, often times we see goalies let in a soft one during low-shot-faced games in IIHF tournaments, but Ratajczyk stayed sharp the whole time. It was a great tournament for Poland’s top goaltending prospect, who finished with a .949 SV%.

Nadia Ratajczyk saves vs Chinese Taipei

Finally Finishing

In the previous tournament, Poland had many chances but could not finish. They finished with a shooting percentage below four percent. It was the biggest reason Poland missed out on gold, and lost a rough game vs Chinese Taipei in 2022. This year Poland came out strong and buried their opponents below them, with final scores of 6-0 and 4-0 twice. This game gave them an 8.25 shooting percentage on 177 shots. This was good for second in the tournament, but there is still some work to do. When it mattered most, Poland only scored one goal on 37 shots versus Denmark.

14-year-old Stars

A sign that work has already started was a pair of 14 years olds who came up big for Poland. Anna Sencerz and Matylda Stępień both stepped up and helped deliver strong performances to boost Poland’s offense. Matylda Stępień is someone I was hoping would provide that spark, as she scored over 40 points last year for Ponzan in the PLHK. In 2023, she is playing in the top women’s league in Czechia for HC Falcons Sokol Karviná. In the tournament, she scored three goals on 19 shots. Her three goals were tied for the lead on team Poland and third in the tournament. Sencerz has been a rapidly developing forward for Gdansk. In this tournament, she scored one goal and assisted on another. Her two points were tied for fifth on the team. Both young players helped make this Polish offense the strongest in the tournament.

Matylda Stępień Goal vs. Spain

The Captain and Brzezińska Bombs

The true leaders of that strong offense were Maja Brzezinska and Justyna Zyla. Brzezinska tied for the lead in points and goals on Poland with three goals and one helper. The talented forward from Gdansk also fired off a team-leading 27 shots on goal. This was the highest amount of shots on goals by any individual in the tournament. Brzezinska already represents Poland at the senior level in the IIHF as well. She showed in this tournament that she has already outgrown the U18 level, and I think she may outgrow playing in Poland soon. While the captain has already outgrown Poland and is playing in Sweden. Justyna Żyła, the captain, also had a really great tournament. She tied Brzezinska for the lead in points with two goals and two assists for four points. Both are really going to be a large part of the core of Poland’s next generation.

What’s Next Now?

After back-to-back silver medals, the obvious goal for next year will be gold. Poland will not have too many departures, but they will be key players. Starting goalie Nadia Ratajczyk will have aged out after two runs as the starter. Captain Justyna Żyła, Maja Brzezińska, Julia Skręt, and Natalia Nosal will also all not be able to return. Still, that means you return so much of your roster that it paints a bright picture for next year. Finding out who will be the next goalie to take on the starter role will be the biggest thing for Poland to answer. The offense could be the best we have ever seen from the red and white.

Quick Thoughts

  • Poland’s 15 goals scored were the second most in team history, impressive with only four games
  • 3 goals is the least amount of goals allowed in the tournament by Poland, still impressive but also only with four games.
  • Natalia Nosal has now had two strong tournaments showing poise in each zone. She recorded one goal and two assists in four games in this tournament. I really like to see development on defense.
  • Patrycja Wójcik has a lot of potential as a stay-at-home defenseman and her development continues to grow solidly.
  • Magdalena Lapies is really going to be a special forward for Poland. There was so much talent at this tournament to talk about.

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2022 Top 50 Women’s U20 Players. #50-31

We reviewed over 100 players and are now ranking them. The growth of women’s hockey in Poland has exploded, and in the end, we gave ten players grades that suggest they can play in a stronger league outside of Poland and make an impact. The depth is steadily improving, but still, there remains a more significant gap between the majority of the list and the top. The PLHK playing score totals have been removed from the PZHL’s site. All stats used are from Elite Prospects. We have also massively overhauled how we scored players for their rankings. This change will lead to quite a few drastic rating drops for players outside their U18 career. 

Players had to be under the age of 20 and at least 13 years old on September 12th, 2022. We are only judging play that occurred before that date as well. Players are evaluated based on a combination of career history, current play, and potential. Skaters must have played at least five games to be considered. While most of the ranking is my opinion, numerous Polish hockey people contributed their thoughts on players. 113 players were considered for the list and reviewed. Fifty players received a ranking.

Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2021, change in rankings)

50 – Aleksandra Jachym (D), 18,  Polonia Bytom (42, -8

We begin our list with the young stay-at-home defender from Polonia Bytom, Aleksandra Jachym. In nine games this season, she posted one assist. In her final U18 season, Jachym has yet to carve out a more steady and permanent role in the lineup of the defending champions. 

49 – Katarzyna Radomska (G), 19, UKH Biale Jastrzebie (32, -17)

Radomska started ten games for a rough Jastzebie team. When matched up with more even opponents, Radomska held her own. But most of the time, she was under siege in net. A move to Tychy for this year will hopefully be a better year and allow her to continue growing.  

Radomska saves vs. Tychy. PLHK

48 – Magdalena Głąbica (D), 19, UKH Biale Jastrzebie (NR) 

Głąbica continues to serve a substantial role on the Jastrzebie defense. She recorded one goal and one assist in 16 games this past season and the first points of her PLHK career. She doesn’t project to be a top defenseman but should continue to be a steady presence on lower lines. 

Głąbica assist vs. Podhale Nowy Targ. PLHK

47 – Alicja Gacek (D), 15, Podhale Nowy Targ (NR)

Gacek breaks into the rankings after her second season in the PLHK at 14 years old. She recorded 1 goal and 1 assist in 17 games for Podhale Nowy Targ, and that one goal tied her for fourth among scoring for U16 defensemen. 

Gacek goal vs. Poznan. PLHK

46 – Magdalena Olszewska (F), 17, Cracovia Krakow (NR)

Olszewska had a solid year for Cracovia. After a two-point performance in 2021, she recorded 12 points (5G-7A-12PTS) in 16 games. On a Cracovia team desperate for offense, this led the team in points. She is the key to their offense, and that ice time should bold well for her development. 

Olszewska Goal vs. Podhale. PLHK

45 – Julia Nawart (D), 18, Naprzod Janow (38, -7)

Nawart continues to work her way up the Janow lineup and put up a new career high in points with three assists in 12 games. I had her on the shortlist of defensemen for the Polish U18 squad, but I was not shocked she was not on the team. 

44 – Julia Zyguła (D), 16, Naprzod Janow, (NR) 

Zyguła had her senior debut season for 2022 and did well playing about half the year. The 15-year-old recorded two points (1G-1A-2PTS) in nine games. You should keep an eye on her for future U18 squads. 

43 – Amelia Firek (D), 16, KS Cracovia 1906, (NR) 

Firek continues to move up the PHLK ladder. After spending the previous year mainly with Podhale, she carved out a role with Cracovia this season. In 11 games, she recorded two goals. For the 2023 season, she is moving over to the reigning champions Polonia Bytom. 

Amelia Firek Goal vs. Podhale. PLHK

42 – Nikola Wencel (D), 16, Naprzod Janow (NR)

Wencel got her first taste of senior hockey last year and followed that up with another solid season. She would post two goals and two assists in 15 games for Janow, and her two goals were tied for fifth among U18 defenders. 

 Nikola Wencel Goal vs. Tychy. PLHK

41 – Milena Piasecka (D), 15, PTH Kozice Poznan, (NR) 

Piasecka will be one to watch going forward; she has shown great potential in her young career. In her PLHK season, she recorded one assist in ten games as a 14-year-old. She is moving over to Polonia Bytom, which should continue to massively boost her development in a vital area of need for Poland. 

40 – Lena Kabelis-Szostakowska (F), 14, Naprzod Janow, (NR) 

As a thirteen-year-old, Kabelis-Szostakowska scored four goals in 14 games for Janow. Playing almost an entire season at her age is rare; seeing someone score during it is even more impressive—one to watch for sure in the next few years. 

39 – Paulina Schnabel (G), 16, Naprzod Janow, (NR) 

Schanabel continues to play more and more games in net for Janow. She had some solid games this year, and the future looks potentially bright for her. I expect her to start getting some U18 reps, but she may be behind fellow U18 Janow goalie Alicja Kobiela.

Paulina Schnabel save vs. Tychy. PLHK

38 – Emilia Nosal (D), 16, Podhale Nowy Targ, (NR) 

Nosal got her first taste of PLHK action this year, and she played in 13 games with Podhale and recorded one assist during the playoffs. She also made the Polish U18 squad for the September 2022 tournament, and I would expect her to make the 2023 team.

37 – Sandra Piotrowska (F), 16, Unia Oswiecim, (46, +9

After two pointless PLHK seasons, Piotrowska stepped up big this year for Oswiecim. In 20 games, she recorded two goals and six assists. The Oswiecim forward’s point total put her top ten on the team in regular season scoring. In the next two years, she will be one to watch for the U18 squad.

36 – Aleksandra Langner (D), 17, Unia Oswiecim, (43, +7)

Langner showed more of her offensive side in the 2022 season. After going pointless in her previous PLHK contests, she posted seven points in 22 games. A big part of her offense came in the post-season with one goal and three assists in six games. 

35 – Katarzyna Secemska (D), 18, Polonia Bytom, (34, -1)

Secemska moved from Janow to the Polish women’s hockey powerhouse, Polonia Bytom. She saw a slight offensive decline in the lineup spot drop but still posted eight points in 19 games, scoring one goal and assisting on three during three playoff games. She was on the initial U18 squad last season but did not play with the team in September. 

34 – Laura Bulas (D), 17, Naprzod Janow, (NR) 

Bulas has earned a more prominent role on Janow and primarily served on the top defensive pairing. She played in 13 games and recorded five assists. This year was a new career high in points for the young defensemen. 

33 – Alicja Kopciara (F), 20, Unia Oswiecim (29, -4)

Kopciara has become a key offensive piece for Unia Oswiecim, and her best year to date with 20 points in 19 games. This included 15 goals and five assists, and her 15 goals were 21st among all skaters in the PHLK. Kopciara looks to be a strong top-six forward for Oswiecim now and in the future. 

Alicja Kopciara Goal vs. Tychy. PLHK

32 – Lena Hachuła (F), 16, Naprzod Janow, (NR) 

After showing limited offense in her few PLHK seasons, Hachuła exploded this year with four goals and four assists in just 13 games. Her .62 point per game average led all U18 players on Janow. 

31 – Jadwiga Jankowska (F), 15, Naprzod Janow, (NR) 

Jankowska doubled her production this past season with seven points (2G-5A-7PTS) in 16 games. The 15-year-old also made her IIHF debut as she represented Poland at the Division 1 Group B U18s. Given her young age, she is probably in the same area as many young forwards who made the September team in that they will be staples of the team for the next few seasons. 

Jadwiga Jankowska secondary assist vs. Iceland. International Exhibition

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5 Thoughts: 2022 Women’s Division 1 Group B U18s. The Offense Fails to Finish

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.

68 Shots!!!

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…

Ratajczyk Review

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.

Sweet Silver

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.

Quick Thoughts

  • 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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Justyna Żyła Signs in Sweden with Almtuna IS

Justyna Żyła is the next top women’s prospect heading abroad for Sweden. She has signed with Almtuna IS. She will be the sixth Polish player to appear in the Swedish league.

The 16-year-old Oswiecim native has been a top women’s prospect for a bit in Poland. She has been playing in Poland’s senior league since 2018. Last year was his career-best year as she recorded 20 points (11G-9A-20PTS) in 17 games. She also is the captain of the Poland U18 team, which will be competing in their first tournament in a couple of years in September. She previously represented the U18 squad at the 2020 U18s.

Almtuna IS plays in Sweden’s NDHL (Division 1), the second level of women’s hockey in Sweden. The club has played in Division 1 their entire existence. For 2023, Olle Öhrqvist will be taking over as head coach after coaching AIK 2 in Division 1 for the past three years.

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The Silver Lining. 5 Thoughts 2022 Women’s World Championships Division 1 Group B

For the first time since 2019, the World Championships were back. After two years of COVID cancellation, we finally got to see the Women’s senior team play at the IIHF World Championships again. It has been a while since we have last seen the team, and a lot has changed. Poland got in a team in the European Women’s Hockey League, and numerous players went outside Poland to develop their craft. This team was coming off qualifying for the final round of Olympic Qualification for the first time in team history as they upset the Netherlands. Could the team continue to make history in 2022?

Poland got off to a hot start right away defeating the oldest team in the tournament, Kazakhstan, 3-1. In game two, it was a huge goaltending battle as Sass took on NCAA goalie Pia Dukaric, Sass would come out on top as Poland beat Slovenia 4-0. Next up was South Korea, which had been a thorn in Poland’s side during the 2019 Worlds. Korea remained a thorn, but not too much as Poland won 2-1. Game four saw Poland take on Italy, which had defeated Poland in 2014, 2017, and 2018. This time, for the first time, Poland took down Itlay after some overtime heroics from Wiktoria Gogoc. This win set up a winner take all game five between Poland and group favorites China. Unfortunately, China would win that game easily after a strong first period with a final score of 7-2.

The 100 Club

Both Karolina Pozniewska and Klaudia Chrapek hit the 100-game mark for the Polish national team. An amazing and rare achievement. Especially when you consider the women’s senior team has only been active in the IIHF since 2011, only 49 games at the World Championships. Their dedication to growing the game in Poland is inspiring, and both have already left an amazing legacy while continuing to help Poland reach new heights. When they played their first games for team Poland, the team started all the way down in Division Two group B. Now Poland is on the cusp of Division 1 Group A, in just a decade.

Wall of Sass

Sass continues to dominate the game. She went toe to toe with some great goalies in this tournament and came out on top all but once. If you take away the game versus China, Sass stopped 97 of the 103 shots she faced, a .942 save percentage. Sass was named the best goaltender of the tournament, and probably turned some heads in the scouting world with her performance at the Worlds and with her club teams. She had to make some really tough saves at the Worlds as well.

Defensive Struggles

Poland’s defense was completely overmatched at this tournament. It was not the entire lineup, but it was a major problem. It hurt the team massively and wasn’t just against China. It really stood out versus Italy and South Korea as well. All tournament teams would generate big chances off massive mistakes by the Polish defense. It wasn’t a matter of bad positioning, it was just bad awareness and decision-making. Something you would hope would improve as players gain more experience but this was a problem with quite a few veterans.

A Complete Offense

While defensively, there may have been some bad plays, Poland’s defense stepped up huge in the opposing zone for the most part. The whole offense seemed to play with a lot of confidence. Poland scored the second-most goals in the tournament with 16, five more than second-place Italy. The forward group was making plays, while the defense launched quite a few shots from the point, in fact, five of Poland’s eight defensemen scored a goal at the tournament.

The Silver Lining

Poland took home silver. They lost to a China team that is more North American than it is Chinese. The import rules need not apply in the circumstances China got and it sucks. The IIHF thought it was fine to let a team that posted two wins in the elite division just play back down in Group B. Poland and Itlay both played at the Olympic qualification tournament this past year, and were killed in the final round. The second the imports returned it was China’s tournament. Poland would have to play more than perfect to survive, but they had a rough first period and it quickly became 6-0. Poland would only allow one more goal the rest of the way. China was only held scoreless in a single period the whole tournament and that was the second period versus Poland. A 7-2 defeat against a team that can win at the elite level is a sign of progress.

A silver medal is the best Polish finish of all time. While you can be upset about the China game, what Poland did in this tournament still made history, as they have done all year. Last year it was a bronze medal, now it is the first silver medal in Division 1. They beat 16th ranked Italy, the highest-ranked opponent Poland has ever defeated. On top of all that, Poland was the second youngest team at the tournament. They’re going to be back next year for gold.

Quick Thoughts

– Olivia Tomczok only played in three games, her missing the final two hit the team’s forward depth hard. A great forward even scored in game 1 against Kazakhstan.

– In her first tournament for team Poland Ukrainian import Tatiana Onyshchenko looked great. She added one goal and two assists.

– Dominika Korkuz really made some great plays in this tournament and picked her corner perfectly on her first national team goal.

– Former national team forward Magdalena Czaplik served as the equipment manager for the team. This was her first senior team staff appointment, congrats to her! She has been working behind the scenes for the U18 squad since 2018 while her playing career was still active.

– Julia Zielinska’s offensive game is really getting to the next level. Really has a chance of being an elite two-way player.

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How China Became Poland’s Final Boss Battle

In 2019, the rising women’s senior team took bronze at the Division 1 Group B World Championships. They had a chance to win gold on the final day, and it was all you could ask from a group playing for only the third time in division 1. The previous two years saw Poland lose nine games while only winning one game in overtime. The bronze finish was a sign of better things to come for Polish hockey.

Since then, it feels the national team has expanded rapidly. So many young stars have emerged in the country. Sikorska was only 16 years old playing at the tournament. Ida Talanda, Julia Zielinska, and Magdalena Łąpieś were all too young to play for the senior team. This was before team Poland had a team in the EWHL. The national team has gained so much experience against stronger opponents and has shown themselves to be a strong Divison 1 threat. This was capped off after Poland defeated the Netherlands to advance to the final round of Olympic Qualification.

That final game in 2019 where Poland played for gold was funnily enough against the Netherlands, and the Dutch shut Poland out 2-0 to win gold and promotion to Division 1 Group A. Now Poland had their revenge and was able to take on Czechia, Norway, and Hungary for a shot at the Olympics. Now back at the World Championships, a Polish team with more experience under their belts somewhat emerged as a potential favorite to claim promotion this time around. The biggest challenge was to be the same team they beat to have a chance at gold on the final day, China.

On April 10th, 2019, Poland and China went to battle. Each team came in with two wins and one loss. While we talk about how the Polish team was still a year away from having a team in the EWHL, China had a squad in CWHL, Canada’s top women’s league. It was arguably the best or second women’s league in hockey at that time. A considerable level above the EWHL. It was a battle for survival and a chance at glory. China’s Xin He would strike first, and quickly at just 55 seconds into the game. Sikorska would continue to prove to be Poland’s future when she tied it up at the 12-minute mark. Poland then owned the second period, scoring two more times to take a commanding 3-1 lead into the third period.

China was not ready to roll over. China controlled the third, although Poland added another goal at the period’s halfway mark. China continued their push, scoring two goals shortly after to make it a 4-3 game with just seven minutes to play. Poland would fight off China’s last stand and win the game by one. Poland was outshot in the third period 17-5, after leading the shots on goal battle 26-21 after two periods.

Now we are back at the World Championships. Poland and China seemed destined for another battle at the top. Instead of a chance at gold, it’s for the gold. Italy, the highest-ranked country, was upset by Slovenia 3-1 after an outstanding 54 save performance by Yale goaltender Pia Dukaric. Then China beat Italy 6-3, having two losses almost guarantees a finish outside of first for Itlay. Poland has quickly moved past its opponents beating Kazakhstan, Slovenia, and South Korea by a combined score of 9-2. Of course, Italy is not just going to roll over and are still a massive threat to Poland. Poland lost to Itlay at the 2014, 2017, and 2018 World Championships. China isn’t out of the clear yet, as they have to beat Kazakhstan. A team that beat them in 2019. All this could be rendered mute.

Sass save vs. Italy 2018

Italy dropping their first two games, and the growth of both China and Poland make the favorites talk easy. Polish hockey has exploded. Wiktoria Sikorska is in her second SDHL season, playing in Europe’s best women league at only 19-years-old. Martyna Sass has genuinely become one of the best goalies in Division 1. Her growth in EWHL and Slovakia has been amazing to watch. Defensemen Julia Zielińska plays in Finland’s top league and has proven to be a top defenseman. Those are only a few of the players making massive jumps. Metropolis Katowice, Poland’s team in the EWHL, finished sixth in the league and made the playoffs. This is the best finish for the team in their short three-year history. The team had 11 wins in their first two seasons combined. The team won 10 games just in 2022. To top it off, Poland added a substantial import as Ukrainian forward Tetiana Onyshchenko gained Polish citizenship after being one of the best forwards in the PLHK the past few years. As great as that all is, it is not close to China, and there is nothing they could do.

China hosted the 2022 winter Olympics. Both the men’s and female’s senior teams would earn an automatic bid to play in hockey’s elite competition. Obviously, if China were to play with their usual roster, they would get absolutely crushed. It is not good for hockey, the IIHF, or the country. Especially when growing the sport, it is not good for potential fans to see their home country get decimated. This meant that IIHF needed to think fast and get these teams up to speed. Working with the Russian Ice Hockey Federation, China was granted multiple teams across the levels of Russian hockey, including the KHL, the top men’s league, and the ZhHL, the top women’s league. Unfortunately, with all the time and money given, these projects failed tremendously. In the end, the roster was more North American than Chinese.

These squads were dominated by North American imports, while the IIHF looked the other way on their own strict rules. In 2018, female players were still required to participate in 12 consecutive months in a country before being declared eligible, and in 2019 that number was dropped to 8 months. The time from the KRS Vanke Rays’ first game of 2021-22 to China’s first Olympic game was 4 months and 12 days (134 days), well below the eight months or (240 days required). Unless a training camp started on June 7th and lasted to the Olympics, there were zero ways to meet the eligibility requirements for a large amount of China’s roster.

Let’s face facts. The IIHF needed to do this for the event and growth of the game. I understand and support that, and I want hockey to grow. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be writing about Polish hockey. It also worked out well for China as the women’s team stayed competitive and beat both Denmark and Japan. The Japan win is especially significant as Japan actually went on to win the rest of their group. It was great to see them succeed at the Olympics and possibly inspire the next generation of hockey players in China.

Now the Olympics are done. A team that beat two elite opponents in 6th ranked Japan and 10th ranked Denmark, will be playing in the second group of division 1. In Division 1 Group B, the highest-ranked team is 16th ranked Italy, who missed out on qualifying for the Olympics after getting outscored 2 to 14 in the final qualification round. Only one import that played on the Olympic team, starting goalie Kimberly Newell, is not returning for the World Championships. The team that Poland saw in 2019 has now gained 11 players from the two best women’s hockey countries on the planet that play in Europe’s second-best women’s league.

There is no topping that kind of growth. It makes China the clear favorite for gold and promotion. If Poland can’t keep up with Czechia, Hungary, and Norway. How will they keep up with players that even previously represented Canada and USA, albeit at the junior level, on the international stage?

Despite all that, Poland was keeping pace after two games. Poland had registered more shots on goal, while Sass led the tournament in save percentage. Poland had allowed just one goal compared to China’s three goals allowed. Two games into a tournament make these stats far from the truth due to the sample size against different opponents. That became very clear on game day three when China blew out Slovenia 14-2. A team Poland only beat 4-0. Poland won on day three as well. They beat South Korea 2-1, China beat South Korea 5-0 on day 1.

Poland beat China when they previously had the development advantage of the CWHL team. Now Poland will have to overcome a new obstacle. If there is one thing Poland’s women’s team does better than anything, it’s overcome obstacles.

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_.

2021 Top 50 Women’s U20 Players. Stats and Notes

The women’s top 50 list has officially concluded for the year. It is now time to look at just some random notes for the list, like what the team had the most players or which player had the highest rise. It was a fun and challenging list, thanks to the pandemic. Significant judgment calls had to be made for some players, given the limited number of games. The goal this year was to grow the list to 50 players.

For those wondering, the 2022 list will be happening after the Women’s U18 Division 1 Group B Championship from September 5th to the 11th. This is partly due to the lack of games over the past few years and how late 2021 was finished. 2022 Top 50 Women’s U20 list will begin on September 12th.

All Articles

Players 30-21Players 10-8Player 2
Players 20-16Players 7-4Player 1
Players 15-11Players 3

Top 80 Rankings

Biggest Risers

  1. Magdalena Łąpieś +17
  2. Julia Łapińska +12
  3. Katarzyna Zaborska +12
  4. Justyna Zyla +10
  5. Ida Talanda +7

Biggest Drops

  1. Helena Grzybowska -6
  2. Karolina Baran -5
  3. Alicja Kopciara -5
  4. Karolina Rostalska -2

Highest List Debuts

  1. Julia Skręt (7)
  2. Maja Brzezińska (8)
  3. Lena Zięba (10)
  4. Julia Bujak (19)
  5. Matylda Stępień (21)

Breakdown By Position

Breakdown By Team

Breakdown By Country

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_.

2021 Top 30 Women’s U20 Players. #1

After plenty of delay for the rankings this year, we have reached the final piece in the series. Yours truly worked one full-time job and one part-time job so I apologize for the time it took. The PLHK playoffs for the 2022 season are ongoing as I write, and we’re still counting down the 2021 performances. The Men’s side finally saw the reign of Łyszczarczyk end as he aged off the list, and Zygmunt took the top spot. Every year on the men’s side, Łyszczarczyk was on top since I started the rankings. The women’s list has a similar standing, as every year, the same player stands on top. While Łyszczarczyk was on top for coming close to heights that Poles have not seen in decades, our number one on the women’s side is a revolutionary player. 

Players had to be under 20 on June 30th, 2021. We are only judging play that occurred before that date as well. Players are evaluated based on a combination of career history, current play, and potential. While most of the ranking is my opinion, numerous Polish hockey people contributed their thoughts on players. Ninety-five players were considered for the list and reviewed, and fifty players received a ranking. Players 50-31 will be revealed at the end of the series in the breakdown article. Only the top 30 players receive a report.

Players 30-21Players 10-8Player 2
Players 20-16Players 7-4
Players 15-11Players 3

Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2020, change in rankings)

1 – Wiktoria Sikorska (F), 19, Göteborg HC, (1, 0)

Sikorska is the number one player for a third straight year. A truly revolutionary player for Poland. The confidence and skill that she plays with offensively is so fun to watch. She is the first Polish player to play in Sweden’s SDHL. The SDHL is considered by many to be the best women’s league in Europe. Many top national teams see their country’s best play their club seasons in the SDHL. 

In the offseason, Sikorska signed with Göteborg HC of the SDHL. The signing got a bit of fanfare from the Ice Garden of SBNation in their SDHL preview. 

“Sikorska led Karvina in scoring with eight goals and 10 assists in nine games. So, if you’re looking for a rising star on an underdog team to fall in love with, Sikorska is the player for you.”

While not the greatest club in the SDHL, they keep fighting off relegation. Sikorska recorded two goals and four assists in six games for her first season. While not eye-popping numbers, they were seventh on her team. When the team averages 1.27 goals per game, there will be some offensive struggles all around. It is rare for a U18 player to even appear in the league. Her six points were eight among all U18 players, and her two goals were tied for sixth. 

Sikorska Goal vs. HV71

Playing in such a major league, we have access to more numbers and more data to look up. It helps paint a more accurate picture of a player’s season instead of just basic stats and the eye test. First, with a long history, we have plenty of seasons similar to Sikorskas; 71% of Sikorska’s matches had long SDHL careers after their U18 season. This is great news, as being an SDHL regular would be a new high for Polish hockey. Next, we also have a much better tool to help us see where Sikorska is in the SDHL, thanks to Mikael Nahabedian’s SDHL player comparable pool, which gives players ratings. Here is how Sikorska compares to the other top U18 forwards. While both on the lower end, her defensive game rated better than her offensive, which was interesting to me given how much we talk about her offensive game. 

PlayersOverallOffenseDefense
Lova Blom777972
Nicole Hall727666
Maria Lindberg656663
Wilma Sjölund606451
Agnez Svensson333921
Hilda Svensson324211
Ella Albinsson302637
Wilma Sundin251347
Wiktoria Sikorska232028
Linnéa Pettersson Dove201929

Last, from Mikael Nahabedian and the Ice Garden, we have N-WHKYe. Networked Women’s Hockey Equivalency (N-WHKYe) is a metric that allows for the standardization of offensive production across more than 40 Women’s hockey leagues worldwide. We have a better idea of how Sikorska would fare in North America’s PHF or Russia’s ZhHL. Sikorska’s N-WHKYe was a 0.06. Which is t-197, out of 285 forwards from the PHF, SDHL, and ZnHL. It ranked t-90 out of 119 forwards in the SDHL. 

There were some struggles for sure this year, and that is expected. She smoothly grades out as a below-average forward in the SDHL. As impressive as Sikorksa is, she was never going to make a massive impact right away in Sweden. It is the best league in Europe for a reason, and it is a significant step up from Czechia’s top league and the EWHL. There will be some growing pains, especially with the quality of Göteborg HC. She is a rising star with no ceiling, and it is going to be fun watching her develop in one of the best leagues in Europe.

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_.

2021 Top 30 Women’s U20 Players. #2

We have now reached the top 2 players. A part of the ranking that has long been dominated by two people. Now one of those two has aged out of the rankings. Despite the open spot at number two, it was always obvious who was going to take that spot. Polish hockey has two players that are constantly breaking new ground for Polish players and they have yet to even turn 20. The most challenging choice of the rankings was who was number 1 and who had to be number two. 

Players had to be under 20 on June 30th, 2021. We are only judging play that occurred before that date as well. Players are evaluated based on a combination of career history, current play, and potential. While most of the ranking is my opinion, numerous Polish hockey people contributed their thoughts on players. Ninety-five players were considered for the list and reviewed, and fifty players received a ranking. Players 50-31 will be revealed at the end of the series in the breakdown article. Only the top 30 players receive a report.

Players 30-21Players 10-8
Players 20-16Players 7-4
Players 15-11Players 3

Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2020, change in rankings)

2 – Julia Zielińska (D), 17, Kiekko-Espoo, (3, +1) 

Zielińska moves up to second on the list, while in past years, goaltender Martyna Sass had locked down the number two spot. Sass aged off the list, but regardless Zielińska would have been number two while making a strong case for number 1. A big part of that number 1 case is her position. Defensemen are harder to develop, in my opinion. Especially when it comes to growing your game, teams only carry around six on their roster. So if you’re going to take up one as an import, you better be worth it. Zielińska has proved to Kiekko-Espoo that she is more than worth it. 

The Sanok native became a more regular player in the Naisten Liiga, the top women’s league in Finland. She played 12 games total, eight in the regular season and four playoff games. She also appeared in 12 games in the Metsis Q, the second division in Finland, where her offensive game flourished. There she scored eight goals and recorded nine assets. Her 17 points were the second most by all U18 defensemen. Her 1.42 point per game average was the most among all U18 defensemen during the 2021-22 season. It is the fifth-best all-time among all U18 defensemen. She also played in six games in Finland’s U18 league, the U18 Aluesarja, where she added another six goals and two assists. Not to mention it was a championship-winning season in the top league.

This was no doubt an outstanding season by a great young player. Finland is most likely the best women’s hockey country outside of North America right now for development. Giving Zielińska a great environment to apply and grow her game. She is in the perfect situation and example of why Polish players need to go abroad due to the lack of coaching and amenities for Polish players. Seeing her play now versus just a couple of years ago is a night and day comparison. She is already one of Poland’s best defenders. 

One of the biggest things that make her stick out from other Polish defenders is her offensive ability. There is no one like her in Poland for either national team; Klaudia Chrapek would have probably been the closest comparable. But her offensive potential from the blue line is what takes a top line and power-play unit to the next level. Her overall game continues to get better. At only 17-years-old this year, there is also a lot of time left to grow. 

That growth will continue in Finland. As for the 2022 season, Zielińska will be in a more significant role with Kiekko-Espoo, along with a heavily relied on player for the Polish national team at the Olympic Qualifiers and world championships. In December, she would also be on Poland’s U18 squad for the U18s after 2021’s tournament was canceled due to Covid. She will likely still be included on the roster that fights for promotion in the summer. Overall one of the best defenders to ever come out of Poland, and the sky is the limit.

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_.