Wronka's hat-trick leads Poles to big win
by Andy Potts|29 APR 2023
Poland's Pawel Zygmunt celebrates after opening the scoring in his team's World Championship Division IA victory over Lithuania in Nottingham, Great Britain.
photo: Karl Denham
Patryk Wronka grabbed a second-period hat-trick as Poland made a flying start to its Division IA campaign in Nottingham. A 7-0 verdict set the white eagles soaring in the first game of the tournament.

"I feel great," smiled Wronka after the game. "But it's my job, I try to help my team-mates. I think we played very well as a team.

"When you start a tournament you want to get that first three points. We did that, and the morale is up. But tomorrow is a new day, a new opponent, and I think it will be a very tough game."
This was the Poles’ first game back at this level since 2018 and Robert Kalaber’s team wasted no time in making an impact against last year’s bronze medallist, Lithuania. It was a performance that suggested Poland is looking for more than mere consolidation in IA.

"We felt like we should have got back to this division sooner, but the pandemic changed everyone's plans," said Poland's captain Krystian Dziubinski. "Now we're here, we're very happy. We have a really good group of players, we'll stick together and we want to go as far as we can."

The opening goal came from the game’s first shot on target as Pawel Zygmunt put Poland up after two minutes. He got the final touch as Kamil Walega's point shot to beat Mantas Armalis. Barely a minute later, a similar play produced the same result: Maciej Kruczek's from the right point evaded any deflections as it came through traffic but Armalis was unsighted and the puck landed in the Lithuanian net.

Next came a Polish power play, and on 7:02 it was 3-0. This time Wronka went behind the net to set up Krystian Dziubinski and Lithuania had allowed three goals from five shots.

It could only get better for the Baltic state. Although Lithuania made little impact in the opening frame, it did at least stem the flow of Polish offence and keep the puck further away from goal. Attacking opportunities remained scarce, but John Murray had to be alert in the Polish net early in the second period when defender Kostas Gusevas joined Arnoldas Bosas on a rush and they cut a swathe.

That was only a temporary pause in Polish domination, though. Wronka scored his first of the game moments later. Gregorz Pasiut forced a turnover in the Lithuanian zone, Bartosz Fraszko picked out Wronka wide open in the right-hand circle and the Kracovia forward evading Mantas Stankius’ lunging challenge to shoot home.

At the other end, Paulius Gintautas battled his way to the net under heavy pressure from the Polish defence, but a foul by Dominik Pas prevented him from getting a good shot at Murray. Pas took a tripping minor and Lithuania’s power play took the opportunity to generate some offence. A blast from captain Nerijus Alisauskas gave Murray his biggest test, but the Poles managed to kill that penalty.

Then Lithuania hit penalty trouble, and Wronka cashed in twice to complete his treble in the middle frame. Both goals were similar: a Pasiut shot that squirmed through Armalis’ pads, inviting Wronka to tap the loose puck into an open net.

It was a day where nothing went right for Lithuania. The Polish power play collected its fourth goal in the 49th minute when Dovydas Laimutis attempted to cut out Dziubinski's cross ice feed for Walega. Unfortunately, as his goalie slid across to close the back door, Laimutis merely steered the puck inside the near post to make it 7-0.

"We've been working on our power play," added Dziubinski. "We had six hard games before the World Championship and our special teams learned how to play effectively."

Poland goes on to face host nation Great Britain tomorrow, while Lithuania's next game is against Romania.
Poland vs Lithuania - 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A