Hungary opens with solid win
by Derek O'Brien|11 NOV 2021
Hungary's Emma Kreisz (#88) recorded two goals and one assist against Poland. 
photo: Karel Svec

In the final round of qualification for women’s ice hockey at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Hungary opened Group C in Chomutov, Czech Republic with an 11-1 victory over Poland.

It was the Poles striking first before the Hungarians roared back. Taylor Baker paced the victors with four points, with Mira Seregely, Emma Kreisz and Alexandra Huszak each chipping in with three.

“I certainly wasn’t surprised that the teams were even to start, but I also wasn’t surprised that the depth of our team started to rise to the surface,” said Hungarian head coach Lisa Haley. “Depth doesn’t show in the first 10 or even 20 minutes of the game, but as it goes along it starts to trump and I think that’s what we saw today. Poland had a great qualification tournament, coming from behind late in the third period, so we were determined to make sure this game was determined as early as possible.”

“The first 10 minutes we played very well,” said Polish head coach Ivan Bednar. “The second goal after the challenge really cut down our wings and we started to commit some mistakes. Then they started to skate really well around the ice and took advantage of our mistakes.”

Hungary outshot Poland 53-21 on the game, with Polish goaltender Martyna Sass putting on a heroic performance through 54 minutes before simply being overwhelmed.

The Hungarian power play was especially lethal, which connected on three of its first four opportunities while the game was still up for grabs.

Having qualified via winning the last round on home ice, the Poles were energized by some early saves from their goalie and, with some confidence, got some offensive chances of their own. Midway through the first period, they opened the scoring on the power play. It started with a point shot by Julia Zielinska that sailed high and hit the end glass. There, Kamila Wieczorek picked it up and fed out front to Wiktoria Sikorska, who fired it home.

“That was a pretty good feeling, I would say,” said Sikorska. “It was a rebound from the glass behind the net. My teammate just passed it to me in front and I just tried to touch it and it went in.”

The Hungarians tied it on a power play of their own. The play started when Huszak won a faceoff at her own blueline and then charged forward through everybody, rushed into the Polish zone and fired a shot. Sass made the initial shot but couldn’t control the rebound, and Reka Dabasi fed the puck back to Huszak, who scored on her second attempt.

With 3:12 to go in the first period, Hungary took its first lead of the game. Kreisz took a long breakaway pass at the Polish blueline and was in alone. She tried to go five-hole on Sass, who made the save but Kreisz went after her own rebound and, following a scramble, the puck ended up across the goal line.

“I jumped on the ice and saw the opportunity, so I called for the pass, and the D just passed to me and I had a breakaway,” said Kreisz. “I just tried to make a move and I saw it lying there under the pad so I reached and just put it in.”

Initially the goal was waved off due to the goalpost being dislodged, but following a coach’s challenge, that call was overturned and the goal was awarded.

“We had a chance to see it on the big screen and, from our perspective, it looked like the puck was on its way in regardless of the net coming off and we were hoping that’s the category it would fall into, and that’s exactly what happened,” said Haley. “We expected it would count based on that rule and we’re happy they made the right decision.”

After starting well, that play seemed to deflate Poland. The Hungarians really began pressing for more and, with the teams skating 4-on-4 with just under a minute to go in the opening period, Hungary moved the puck quickly around the Polish zone and Sarah Knee picked the top corner to make it 3-1 after one.

With a power play carrying over past the intermission, Hungary managed to keep the momentum on their side as the second period began. Kreisz took a pass down low and, finding no one free in front of the net, stepped out herself and went upstairs for her second of the game just 25 seconds in.

They kept coming and added two more goals in the next four minutes – Mira Seregely at even strength and then Taylor on a one-timer from the point on the power play – made it 6-1 before the middle frame was five minutes old.

“We kinda lost our focus, which shouldn’t happen,” said Sikorska. “We’re playing against teams that are better than us, so we have to keep clear heads and just play our game and whatever happens, just stay focused all the time.”

From there, the Hungarians took their foot off the gas pedal for a while and concentrated more on defence the second half of the game. They added one more goal late in the second period – Baker on the power play while Sass scrambled without a stick. They added four more in the dying minutes of the third, with Seregely adding two to complete her hat trick.

Despite her team’s tough situation, Sass refused to quit in the Polish net. Midway through the third period, denying Debasi twice from point-blank range.

After a day off for both teams tomorrow, Poland faces the Czech Republic in Saturday’s early game, followed by Hungary against Norway in the nightcap.

Hungary vs Poland - 2022 Women's Final Olympic Qualification Group C