April is the busiest time of the year for international hockey, with three IIHF teams in play and some non-IIHF action. We’re a bit late due to the April national team action, but I still wanted to recap those other events. One of the big tournaments going on was the World Cup of University Hockey. Academic teams from around the world gathered to play together in Romania. This was the first World Cup of Hockey held with each country having one academic team. Previously the tournament was held with regions having all-star squads. This year the tournament included eight teams in two groups. In Group A were Hungary, Slovakia, Sweden, and the USA. Group B was comprised of Canada, Czechia, Poland, and Romania. For my curious American and Canadian followers, their squads were all-star teams made up of players from the ACHA level of college hockey.
Poland entered the tournament with somewhat of an all-star team from Poland. While there was a lot of talent from within Polish junior leagues and a few who played outside Poland. Many of the group came from UHT Sabres Oswiecim, who play in the European University Hockey League. There should be many familiar names for Polish fans as quite a few players appeared at international events for Polish junior teams or have ranked in our men’s top 80 rankings. The Polish university squad came in with the smallest and second youngest team in the tournament, and it would take a lot for them to overcome some tough opponents. Players in italics are from UHT Sabres Oswiecim.
Goalies: Dominik Buczek, Filip Płonka, & Gabriel Kaczkowski
Defenesmen: Dawid Tynka, Kacper Łukawski, Jakub Najsarek, Marek Augustyniak, Michał Kokoszewski, Michał Jaracz, Michał Proczek, & Piotr Kot
Forwards: Dominik Kasprzyk, Filip Sienkiewicz, Karol Moś, Jakub Musioł, Jakub Ślusarczyk, Mateusz Bezwiński, Michał Kusak, Oliwier Ksiondz, Oliwier Tumidalski,Patryk Kusak, Szymon Fus, & Vasili Yerasov.
Game 1: Czechia vs. Poland
Czechia – Poland 4:3
Poland Goals: Vasili Yerassov (2x), & Jakub Slusarczyk
The Czechs were a top team coming into this tournament, led by one of the top scorers in the Oberliga, Jakub Cizek. It was a back-and-forth battle on the score sheet, but Poland was often stuck in their own zone. Despite that, they would open the scoring late in the first, with Yerassov grabbing his first of the tournament. The two sides would exchange goals in the second resulting in a tied game at two apiece. With six minutes to go in the third, Poland grabbed their third lead, but Czechia would quickly tie it again before taking the lead with under two minutes. Poland failed to take back their lead this time, and Czechia would take the win on day one. Poland was outshot 44-27 in this game; they held off the Czech siege for as long as possible but eventually fell to it.
Game 2: Canada vs. Poland
Canada – Poland 10:3
Poland Goals: Mateusz Bezwinski (2x), & Jakub Najsarek
Seeing Poland playing Canada is always a weird thing to see at any level. Never forget Poland beat Canada at the 2001 Nagano Cup! Still, this game went as about as you would expect. Poland did keep a somewhat even pace with Canada early on. After two periods, the score was only 4-2, and it often was a one-goal game. Canada would break through and score six in the third. The Eagles got one back but dropped their second tournament game with a 10-3 final.
Game 3: Romania vs. Poland
Romania – Poland 4:5
Poland Goals: Jakub Ślusarczyk (2x), Vasili Yerasov, Mateusz Bezwinski, & Michal Proczek
Poland would take on the host at the end of the group stage. Looking to not walk away with three losses in group play, the red and white got off to a hot start with a two-goal first period. Romania would find their way back into the game during the second period with some clutch saves and two goals. Poland would reclaim their lead four minutes into the third period, before adding two more goals, including one shorthanded by Ślusarczyk. Romania would get two back, but it would not matter as Poland held on to their victory.
Game 4: Hungary vs. Poland
Hungary – Poland: 2:3
Poland Goals: Jakub Ślusarczyk, Vasili Yerasov, & Filip Sienkiewicz
With group play behind them and finishing with a 1-2 record, Poland looked to hopefully go home with better results in the placement games. They got matched up with eternal rival Hungary, who would open up the scoring early. Vasili Yerasov would continue his great tournament by tying the game shortly after. These two countries would keep it scoreless in the second, but less than a minute into the third, Poland would regain the lead thanks to Ślusarczyk. Hungary would tie it again at the halfway mark of the third. With just over a minute left, Filip Sienkiewicz would score his first of the tournament to become the hero.
Game 5: Sweden vs. Poland
Sweden – Poland: 2-4
Poland Goals: Jakub Ślusarczyk (3x) & Michal Kusak
The red and white were set to end the tournament with a game for fifth place versus Sweden. A formidable and top rival, it would be a big game for the Poles, and their nerves might have got the best of them at first. Sweden jumped out to a 2-0 lead early in the second, with both coming from former HockeyEttan forward Max Wedjesjö. When the game reached its halfway point, the switch flipped for Poland. Ślusarczyk would score once in the second to make it a one-goal game. The third period would be all Poland, as they capitalized twice on two powerplays. With less than ten seconds left, Ślusarczyk would finish the game and his hat trick, doubling the lead on an empty net.
This was a fun tournament. We saw young Polish talent against ACHA and low-tier European league competition. Poland had the second youngest average age in Romania, with 19.83. They were one of only two teams, Hungry the other, with an average age below 21.75. Given the overall level of competition and the first year of this format, it is hard to take away much from the event. With that in mind, Jakub Ślusarczyk was the best player there. He led the tournament in scoring by four points with seven goals and five assists. It was impressive from one of Poland’s best prospects, especially as the 19-year-old was up against more senior players. Vasili Yerasov performed well in the tournament, coming in second on Poland in points with three goals and four assists. It also appears the Kazakhstan native has acquired Polish citizenship. University hockey is an excellent way for Polish players to get more playing time and eyes on their game, which can be hard to come by in the current Polish structure. Quite a few Poles had great showings in the tournament, and I am curious if there will be anything to come from it.
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