Star Power

Know Your Bobcat – Filip Starzynski

Throughout the months of August and September, BismarckBobcats.com will be taking a one-by-one look at the players on the Bobcats’ Training Camp Roster. Today’s installment features third-year Bobcat forward Filip Starzynski.

Name: Filip Starzynski

Position: Forward

Hometown: Warsaw, Poland

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 180 lbs.

2012-13 Team: Bismarck Bobcats

2012-13 Stats: 53 GP, 4 G, 19 A, 23 PTS, +8, 50 PIM, 1 PPG

2012-13 Awards/Distinctions: Assistant Captain, Bismarck Bobcats; Captain, Team Poland (2013 World Junior Championships); Gold Medal, 2013 World Junior Championships, Division I, Group B

Favorite Book: Running for My Life by Lopez Lomong

Favorite TV Show: Suits

Highlight of 2012-13: “My first season, we won the Central Division on the road and I know we had done that the two years before that, too, so it was a great feeling to be able to win the Central Cup in front of our fans and friends and families.”

The Best Pest

When it comes to the play of Bismarck Bobcats forward Filip Starzynski, phrases like “agitator,” “pest,” and “Sean Avery” often get tossed around. Hockey cliché might suggest he’s the kind of player you hate to play against but love to have on your team.

Cliché or not, the latter holds true with the Polish grinder.

“Having Filip out there on the ice for us presents a real double-bonus from a coaching standpoint,” lauded Bobcats head coach and general manager Layne Sedevie, “first and foremost because he is consistently the hardest working guy on the team. Every year, starting at ‘Hell Week,’ he sets the tone for everyone else to follow.

“Then he is so intense out there during games that he gets under the other team’s skin and it becomes a distraction for them.”

Starzynski agrees that his reputation of being an agitator is a by-product of his energy on the ice, at least for starters.

“I like to play strong in the corners and crash the net, and sometimes that upsets my opponents,” assessed Starzynski, who has found himself in more than his share of post-whistle scrums in front of the opposing goal. “Sometimes, one particular guy is getting really ticked and really on edge. I’ll try and press that advantage to help the team, if not only to distract him but maybe get us a power play.”

Sometimes, though, it works as more than a negative for his foes: Starzynski actively feeds off of rattling the opposition.

One of the most famous examples of this phenomenon occurred on January 13, 2012, against the Coulee Region Chill. With a chance to seal their fourth straight playoff spot on the line, the Cats fell behind 3-1 to the Chill on a power play goal that resulted from a Starzynski boarding minor.

Throughout the next seven-plus minutes of play, Chill players continually harassed Starzynski because of the penalty, but instead of retaliating physically, he responded with a rally-starting goal with 4:02 left in the game and eventually the shootout-winning goal to deliver the Cats a postseason berth.

Just another day in the office for Starzynski.

“Yeah, it definitely fires me up when the other team is angry with me,” admitted Starzynski with a laugh, “mostly because I know that it’s putting my team in a good situation because everyone is focusing on me instead of playing hockey, but also because it puts me in a position to put my money where my mouth is—which is fun.”

European Union

A defining moment for the 2012-13 season came for Filip Starzynski, but it wasn’t in a Bobcat jersey; in fact, it came over 5,000 miles away from the nearest NAHL ice surface. That moment came on December 16 in Donetsk, Ukraine, where Starzynski and his fellow countrymen captured the gold medal at the 2013 World Junior Championships.

The Bobcat assistant captain was named captain of the Polish squad, who finished 4-0-1-0 in pool play, one point ahead of group favorite Kazakhstan.

“Being able to go into the Ukraine and perform so well for our country was an incredible feeling,” recalled Starzynski, who finished second among all Group B skaters with eight points on two goals and six assists. “I played with some great players and learned a lot about being a leader on a team.

“Winning the group was the first time I had been on a team that had taken the championship, so it meant a lot to me.”

World Juniors, however, wouldn’t be the last time that Starzynski playing well with eastern European teammates would lead to success.

During the team’s January 26 contest at Aberdeen, the Cats’ lackluster first period compelled Sedevie to completely reshuffle his line combinations, landing Starzynski on a line with Russian forward Stanislav Dzakhov and Minnesotan Bob Kinne. The line produced a Dzakhov goal less than three minutes into the second period in a game the Cats would go on to win 2-1 in overtime to clinch their third straight Titan Machinery Dakota Cup.

“Right away, I looked at [assistant coach Garrett] Roth and said, ‘we might have something with Filip and Stan,’” cited Sedevie. “There was just something about the way they worked together, with the skill and grit they both played with.”

Following the roster deadline, Kinne would be replaced on that line by Bowling Green commit Matt Pohlkamp. Pohlkamp’s finishing ability pushed the unit to heretofore unseen heights: the trio combined for 14 goals and 26 assists between February 8 and the end of the regular season and then seven goals and 11 assists in the Central Division playoffs.

“Playing with Stan and Matt was fantastic,” agreed Starzynski, who at one point went on a seven-game point streak through the middle of March. “Our games complemented each other very well and we all had a really nice connection that made playing on the same line very easy.

“Even though Matt has moved on to college hockey, I’m hoping Stan and I can give it another try this season.”

Getting Gritty

Coming into the final game of February, the Bobcats’ power play was at a season low: struggling to an efficiency of 12.8%—fourth-last in the NAHL. The numbers had the coaches and players looking for an answer.

The first shoe to drop was to reorganize the personnel: career penalty kill specialist Starzynski was promoted to the power play for the first time since September on a unit with Pohlkamp (playing defense), Nate Repensky and a platoon of Matt Anders, Seth Blair and Evan Giesler.

While the unit may have lacked the name-brand recognition of its black and gold counterpart of Dzakhov, Chris Diver, and the team’s three leading scorers in Adam Knochenmus, Joe Giordano and Patrick Moore, the coaches assembled the so-called second crew on something of a basic hockey notion:

“Grit,” stated Sedevie.

That concept paid off almost instantly: trailing 3-0 in a pivotal road game on March 2 at Brookings, who the Cats led by just three points for second place, Starzynski dug out a crossing pass from Blair and whipped it home for the first of four straight power play goals for the unit.

Thanks to that power play outburst, the Bobcats went on to win that game by a comfortable 6-3 margin and never looked back in the race for home ice, besting the Blizzard for home ice advantage by a full 10 points.

The power play, however, was far from done making noise: going on to post an eye-popping 29.3% efficiency in the month of March.

“We learned a pretty valuable lesson, I think,” offered Starzynski, who also chipped in four power play assists in March before adding three more in the playoffs. “Because we had a ton of skill on the power play all season long, but it didn’t turn into a lot of goals until we put it together with grit and hard work.

“If we can keep that in mind this year, we’ll be in great shape on special teams.”

Stay tuned to BismarckBobcats.com over the next month-plus as we take you in-depth with every player on the Training Camp Roster in preparation for the 2013-14 season. This week, we will also feature Ryan Callahan and Stanislav Dzakhov.