The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, November 27, 2019 1:00 am

Polish pride: Komets' rookie feels love from home

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Alan Lyszczarczyk has been scoring plenty as a rookie. And when he does, the internet tends to buzz with statements in Polish such as “absolutnym bohaterem.” That translates roughly to “total hero.”

That may be a bit of an overstatement, but he's certainly got a following among Polish sports fans in and out of Poland. The truth is, Polish hockey isn't that strong and the sport is less popular than team handball or ski jumping, but Poland is proud of Lyszczarczyk's success

“There are people in Poland watching me. In Poland, hockey is not that big because of soccer and a couple more sports like volleyball,” said Lyszczarczyk, 21. “But they want to see how I'm doing here.”

Lyszczarczyk, who grew up also playing soccer and floorball, is the son of Dariusz Lyszczarczyk, a playmaking, and championship-winning, right wing in Polish hockey.

“My dad played pro hockey for almost 20 years,” Alan Lyszczarczyk said. “When I was younger, I would always go into the locker room after games and go with him all over for games. I became such a big hockey fan by watching those games. I fell in love with hockey when he was playing.”

Even though some websites had erroneously stated he was born in New Jersey, Lyszczarczyk was born in Nowy Targ, Poland, where he lived until he was 13. He then moved to the Czech Republic for four years because the junior hockey was better. And then he joined his family in New Jersey.

It's an important distinction because Lyszczarczyk is the first Polish-born player in North American professional hockey since Wojtek Wolski skated for the Washington Capitals in 2012-13, and the first in the ECHL since Adam Borzecki played for the Jackson Bandits in 1999-2000.

“I don't know why everyone was saying I was born in New Jersey. I was born in Poland and lived there for 13 years,” he said.

Once he started playing junior hockey in North America, Lyszczarczyk, a left wing, quickly made a name for himself. His first season, 2015-16, he totaled 17 goals and 50 points in 67 games for the Ontario Hockey League's Sudbury Wolves. His last season, 2018-19, he had 35 goals and 71 points in 54 games for the Mississauga Steelheads.

He's also had plenty of time with Poland's national teams, from the Under-18 team all the way up to the Senior team.

It didn't take long for Lyszczarczyk to generate some buzz in Fort Wayne. During an informal skate before training camp, he unleashed a shot so hard it shattered a pane of glass at the SportONE/Parkview Icehouse.

He's got eight goals and 15 points in 14 games. That included the overtime winner in the 5-4 victory over the Wheeling Nailers on Saturday, when he cut behind the defense, accepted a pass along the boards from Brady Shaw and flicked a forehand past goaltender Jordan Ruby.

“He's got vision that you can't teach,” Fort Wayne coach Ben Boudreau said. “He can see the open ice. He skates extremely well. He can make those skill plays. He places the puck where he wants to. Offensively, he's really gifted. The only thing keeping him out of the next level is his defensive awareness. That's why he's here, to learn that. I think he's getting better at that.”

Boudreau likes seeing Lyszczarczyk absorb information from older players, as he did after a recent practice with A.J. Jenks, who was giving him tips on faceoffs.

“I like the quiet character that he has going about doing his job,” Boudreau said. “Even though he's a Polish guy, he's been communicating and that's something we've been preaching since Day 1 is talking. You've got a foreign guy trying to communicate and he's one of the loudest guys out on the ice. I love that.”

The Komets (9-6-2) face the Nailers (8-5-3) at 7 p.m. today in Wheeling, West Virginia, and at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Coliseum.

“I am happy with things, but I always want to play better,” Lyszczarczyk said. “I feel like I can still be better in the defensive zone and on faceoffs and stuff like that. I want to keep working on that.”

Notes: The Komets have signed forward Shaquille Merasty, who had four goals and seven points in 10 games with Greenville and Birmingham of the Southern Professional Hockey League. ... Thursday will be the 59th Thanksgiving Game at the Coliseum, and the Komets will look to improve their 37-17-4 Turkey Day record. As it's the Bob Chase Memorial Game, the Komets will wear special jerseys honoring their late broadcaster that will be raffled to benefit WOWO's Penny Pitch for Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana.


at Wheeling

When: 7 p.m. today

Where: WesBanco Arena, Wheeling, W.Va.

vs. Wheeling

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: Memorial Coliseum

Radio: 1190 AM, 107.5 FM

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