In Poland’s bid to advance to the Final Qualification Round ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, the team is on the right path with two wins. The team’s top scorer so far is 18-year-old Wiktoria Sikorska with seven points, thanks mostly to a three-goal, three-assist performance in the opener against Turkey. She then added a fourth goal in the team’s second game against Mexico.
“I’m very happy with my performance,” said Sikorska. “I try to play with my teammates and we’ve played really well, I think. It’s really impressive how we can see the quality of the Polish national team going up all the time. We’re not stopping on any level and just staying there, but we keep trying to get better and we’re doing better.”
Sikorska is one of five teenagers on the team, which also includes 16-year-olds Julia Zielinska and Julia Lapinska and 15-year-old Magdalena Lapies.
“From the start of camp, we took many young players and Wiktoria is here because she’s very good,” said national team head coach Ivan Bednar. “She can play, as she’s shown here.”
While most players on the Polish women’s national team play for Metropolis Katowice in the European Women’s Hockey League, Sikorska is one of three players to play for clubs abroad. The others are Zielinska in Finland and Kamila Wieczorek in Switzerland.
Sikorska comes from Chorzow in southern Poland, a short 15-minute drive from the Pulaskiego Arena in Bytom, where Pre-Qualification Round 2 Group H is being played. She first left home at age 14 to play 75 km away in Karvina, Czech Republic. Then at age 17, she made a much bigger move to Sweden to play for Goteborg HC in the SDHL, which is considered by many to be the top women’s league in Europe. She’s now in her second year there.
“Going to Sweden has been one of the best decisions of my life,” said Sikorska. “It’s made me much more confident on the ice. I’m not scared of playing the puck or trying to do something new, and that’s helped me with the national team.”
Sikorska played in three U18 World Championships in Divsion IB, serving as the Polish team captain in the last two. She led the 2019 edition with 10 points and was named the tournament’s Best Forward. That year, at age 16, she also played in her first senior Women’s World Championship, also Divsion IB, where she scored one goal in five games. She has since become a more prominent player on the team.
“Everyone here is more professional,” she said about the senior women’s game. “We also go for bigger things. At the U18 level, there’s only the World Championship but with the senior team we’re always preparing for something, like Olympic Qualifying, and we get a chance to meet so many more teams of different levels.”
Both Poland and the Netherlands have won their first two games, setting up a game on Sunday where the winner advances to the Final Qualification Round, which will be played in November. The Dutch are the higher-ranked team and have gotten the better of Poland in the past, but the Poles have home-ice advantage and an anticipated large crowd of fans on their side.
“We have to watch out for all of them because they’re really physical,” said Sikorska. “When we played them last time, they were more physical than us, but we’re playing much better now than we were then, and I don’t think it will go as well for them this time.”
After the end of the tournament, Sikorska has one day off to spend at home with her parents and brother before heading back to Sweden on Tuesday morning. Naturally, her family has been at all of Poland’s games in Bytom, which is something Sikorska misses when she’s away.
“They’re at every single game and they support me in everything I do and they’re really proud, so I’m really happy that they can come and can see my games again.”