These two countries have some Olympic history: back in 1980 they met in Lake Placid and the Netherlands collected its only victory in Olympic Games action. At the time, Poland was a regular visitor to the Games, something that changed in the 1990s as the national program struggled to adapt to the post-Communist era.
The 2018 qualifying cycle brought some grounds for optimism: Poland got through to the final round of qualifying after upsetting the odds by defeating Hungary in Budapest. To repeat that success in Kazakhstan, the first task was to overcome a Dutch team that won through a previous qualification round in Barcelona.
It didn’t take long for Poland to assert itself. With less than three minutes played, the first power play of the game saw Arkadiusz Kostek open the scoring with a point shot that skipped through the legs of Pawel Zygmunt and wrong-footed Dutch goalie Ian Meierdres.
That ushered in an opening frame that the Poles dominated. The Netherlands struggled to get the puck out of the defensive zone and that pressure brought more penalties. A second power play was quickly converted, Aron Chmielewski smashing home a Marcin Kolusz feed to the top of the circle. And midway through the session, another Dutch penalty led to another Polish goal when Maciej Urbanowicz beat Meierdres at the second attempt.
The Dutch goalie was all that stood between his team and an even greater deficit at the intermission: he had a good pad save to halt Bartlomiej Jeziorski, then improvised to glove a testing Oskar Jaskiewicz effort over the bar. At the other end, John Murray was a virtual spectator with just three shots to deal with in the first period.
Jaskiewicz, who was nominated Poland’s best player, was delighted with how his team opened the tournament.
“It’s a great start for us,” he said. “It felt very good out there today. We’ve been working on our structure, we wanted that fast passing from defence to offence. We had good back checking and our power play was good.”
Almost immediately, Poland had a man advantage once more. This time, the Dutch held out – helped by a terrific double save from Meierdres – only to concede soon after Tom Marx left the box. Patryk Wajda launched a rocket from the right point to make it 5-0 and Meierdres got a deserved breather as Martijn Oosterwijk came into the game.
The new goalie got a tough introduction to the game, beaten by another point shot. This time Jaskiewicz was the scorer. It was a special moment for the GKS Katowice defenceman. He made his competitive debut for Poland in last season’s World Championship but today was the first time the 23-year-old scored in his nation’s colours.
“It’s a big thrill for me to get my first goals for Poland,” he added. “I’m looking to the future and hoping I can score even more.”
Naturally, the Dutch were not so happy. Bo Subr called a time out and he could be heard demanding more effort from his players to close down the puck and deny those shooting chances. That didn’t stop Jaskiewicz adding a second to make it 7-0 late in the middle session.
Tomek Valtonen, Poland’s head coach, opted to give some ice time to understudy goalie Michal Kieler in the third period. The Poles went on to add an eighth goal when a Kostek shot was deflected past Oosterwijk by Filip Komorski, wrapping up an emphatic victory.