DONETSK, Ukraine – Heroes don’t come bigger than this. Kacper Guzik scored a hat-trick in Poland’s come-from-behind 3-2 victory against Italy to earn promotion to next year’s IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division I Group A. Guzik led the championship in scoring with 11 points in five games and was named Best Forward.
Poland earned promotion by winning four of its five games. The only hiccup came midway through the event, a 2-0 loss to the hosts Ukraine. Croatia, with five straight losses, is relegated to Division II Group A.
Just like Poland’s men’s senior national team is led by Russian coaches, this U20 junior class performed almost to perfection under Andrei Parfynov. And the Russian couldn’t be happier with the first line he put together, taking players from three different leagues and countries and making them click to the extent nobody could realistically expect.
Kacper Guzik from GKS Katowice was the big scoring hero, netting eight goals and adding three assists for 11 points in five games. Captain Filip Starzynski, from the Bismarck Bobcats of the North American Hockey League, added two goals and six assists while Löwen Frankfurt forward Adam Domogala had one goal and seven assists.
In all, the Guzik-Starzynski-Domogala line produced 27 points in the four games where Poland scored, including eleven of Poland’s 20 goals in Donetsk.
But in the final game against Italy – with both teams sitting at nine points – it seemed like the Poles would repeat the inefficient performance from the game against Ukraine.
Despite being outshot by a large margin, the Italians had a 2-0 lead midway through the game after goals from Raphael Andergassen and Martin Castlunger and it seemed like they would be able to carry this cushion into the second intermission. But Guzik scored his sixth goal of the championship with only 26 seconds left of the second period.
This was the momentum swing that the Poles needed. At 3:39 into the third period, Kacper Guzik scored his seventh after a feed from linemate Adam Domogala. Then just when it seemed like the game was heading into overtime, the first line and its designated scorer struck again.
With 2:32 remaining, Domogala once again found the Katowice sniper, who scored what proved to be both the game- and championship- winning goal. Italy pulled goalie Martin Rabanser with 58 seconds left, but a penalty to Martin Castlunger thirty seconds later effectively put an end to Italy’s chances of tying the game.
By winning their last game vs. Great Britain 4-1, Kazakhstan claimed second place, one point ahead of Italy. The home team Ukraine finished a disappointing fourth, the only consolation being the defeat of winners Poland and Mykhailo Shevchuk being named tournament’s Best Goaltender. In that 2-0-win against the Poles, Shevchuk turned away all 41 shots thrown at him.
Kacper Guzik was of course named Best Forward, while Italy’s Alex Trivellato got most votes for the Best Defenceman honors.
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