The light at the end of the tunnel is here.
For the past few years, I have taken an approach to Polish hockey that is a bit dark at times, wondering if there is any end in sight for the downfall that Polish hockey had begun. While also stressing at the same time that there was young talent there to help build the national team. That young talent has to lead us to the light at the end of the tunnel. Poland pulled off a massive upset over Belarus. This win was mainly due to the heroics of John Murray, yes the most Polish name to ever to Polish. The team in front of Murray executed the game plan to a key. Poland was outshot by plenty. Most of the shots were forced to the outside and not key scoring areas.
Poland would drop the final two games, losing 5-1 to Slovakia and then 4-1 to Austria. While the last two losses hurt, they can’t destroy the high from the first win at the final stage of Olympic qualification for Poland.
Am I an Idiot?
In my post dissecting the Polish roster beforehand, I criticized the overly defensive forward group that Kalaber brought to the tournament. Poland only scored three goals in this tournament, less than the six goals when Poland was in the final qualification round for the previous Olympics. Could Poland have used those goal scorers? Yes, but also Kalaber brought the players for his plan. Those players executed the plan strongly, and Poland stayed competitive and won a game. So I am going to say I was wrong there.
Alan the Iron Man
We already have gone on about Lyszczarczyk’s outstanding play last year, especially with his 90 plus games played this past season. Now just a couple of months later, he was suiting up for team Poland against the best competition he has faced potentially in his career. He did not appear out of place, recording three assists to lead Poland in points and tied for the tournament lead in points.
There was no doubt that John Murray was the MVP of this tournament for Poland. The American turned Pole was an absolute stud in this tournament. While the team in front of him tried to take as much pressure off as possible. He had to stop a total of 124 shots total, including his 46 save shutout versus Belarus. Polish goaltending is going to be in good hands for the remainder of his national team career.
A Changed Zygmunt
Polish players need to go abroad to reach their full potential. Getting the level of coaching and training that others possess will take years and money that the PZHL doesn’t have right now. When Zygmunt left Poland, he had a lot of potential, but his game had many flaws. Ever since he started playing in Czechia, he is a changed player. Zygmunt especially knows how to use his size now, along with significant strides in his skating. He is one of the most critical players in Poland’s future.
This year, Dominik Pas is set to play his first season aboard in the top league of Slovakia men’s hockey. HK Dukla Michalovce is getting a good one. When Pas was on the ice, he made a solid impact and was a pain in the ass to play against. Pas’ forechecking and two-way ability gives him a complete skillset that a lot of other players lack. I’m excited to see how he will grow against stronger competition with improved training.
- Pasiut is such a welcome return to the national team. Lead the team in shots on goal with 11.
- Penalties were low this tournament, and it was good to see, especially when the competition plays so much faster. Still some at bad times, but Poland was last in penalty minutes.
- On the flip side, Poland had the best penalty kill in the tournament, allowing a single goal while shorthanded.
- I’m proud of this team. They did the unthinkable and got us all to believe the Olympics were possible, even if for a second.
- The young core of the national team is here. Alan Lyszczarczyk (23), Kamil Walega, Pawel Zygmunt, and Dominik Pas (21) were key players in this tournament. That is not even counting Damian Tyczyński, Jakub Lewandowski, and Jan Soltys. They’re the light at the end of the tunnel.