Head coach Dmytro Khristich said a win would bring the team ‘one step closer to the dream’
Ukraine's national hockey team has one of its biggest games in years tonight when they face off against Poland with the chance to keep their 2026 Olympic dreams alive.
Speaking about what the win would mean for Ukrainian hockey, head coach and former NHL all-star Dmytro Khristich flashed a big grin – “It would bring us one step closer to the dream,” he told NV in an exclusive interview before the game.
The two teams are favorites in Group J of the penultimate Olympic hockey qualification tournament. Both teams won their first games by the same score of 4-0, Ukraine over South Korea, and Poland over Estonia.
The winner of tonight's game is almost assured of winning the group and qualifying for the final Olympic qualification tournament in August.
Poland is considered the favorite ahead of the home game, ranked No. 22 in the world, five spots ahead of Ukraine. Poland won the last time the teams met, Poland edged Ukraine 3-2 in a shootout at the World Hockey Championships – Division 1B in April 2022.
“The best performance will win,” Khristich said. “What am I going to tell the team? They already know. They've played the game at this level.”
Khristich admitted that Ukraine is at a disadvantage. Many of the players play abroad since Russia's full-scale invasion began, resulting in a weaker competition level in Ukraine's Premier League.
“For the players in Ukraine, they don't have that many opportunities to play this level at the championship of Ukraine,” he told NV. “It's really tough for them to go through the whole game; for them to match the speed of the whole game.”
Still, after a strong showing in the team's opening 4-0 win over South Korea, the team is skating with confidence.
“Everyone has to be prepared,” Khristich said. “We'll go out and see who is ready to win the game.”
Ukraine plays Poland at 8:15 pm EET. You can watch the game on Suspilne .
The winner of the final qualification group in August will clinch qualification to the 2026 Olympic Games in Milan, Italy.
Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine