Tag: Nadia Ratajczyk

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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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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