IN THE SPOTLIGHT
They trickled out of the New Trier girls hockey locker room after a game last month, some of them alone, others in pairs.
In the hallway near the door stood Mae Olshansky, a New Trier left wing. Only a sophomore, she fielded questions from a scribbler about her team’s 1-0 defeat of host Glenbrook and acknowledged every passing teammate with either a quick shoulder tap or a sincere evaluation: “Good game.”
Olshansky had notched the assist on freshman Serena Seiple’s goal in the game against the reigning state champions at Northbrook Sports Center on Jan. 28. The same opponent had defeated New Trier 5-2 — NT’s second loss in 18 games this winter — five days earlier.
No wonder the 5-foot-4 Olshansky, a Wilmette resident, finished each of her thoughts with a goalmouth-wide smile.
“My first goal ever?” she said, as the type of questions shifted to moments in her early years on the ice. “House league game, between U-6 teams. I was 5-and-a-half. I backhanded a shot from about two feet out. I celebrated as soon as I realized I had scored. Back then, with excited teammates all around me, it was like we had won the Stanley Cup.”
More goals off her stick would follow, year after year after year. Through Jan. 29, when New Trier defeated Scouts Hockey (a team with players from Lake Forest and Highland Park high schools and other schools) 7-0 at Lake Forest College, Olshansky — a Team Illinois skater since the age of 13 — led NT (17-2) with 37 points (26 goals, 11 assists). She ranked second in scoring among teammates as a first-year prep player last winter, when NT reached a quarterfinal in the Amateur Hockey Association Illinois (AHAI) state playoffs.
“Great goal scorer, great playmaker,” first-year NT girls hockey coach Bill Brush said of Olshansky, named recently to the AHAI all-state team (with teammates Maureen McNerney, Hayden Snow, Madeline Babnik and Sabrina Shvartsman). “Mae is really, really good at reading plays, and she’s very patient with the puck.
“Off the ice,” he added, “she’s a super positive and nice kid, fun to be around, in the middle of everything. Team leader; she gets things done.”
Olshansky tried hockey after watching her speedy brother, Chris, now 28, battle for pucks as a left wing and blast pucks past goaltenders with his quick hands. Chris grew up in Minnesota — a cold state and a hockey hotbed — and calls California home today.
Mae Olshansky learned to skate at the age of 3 in Skokie.
“Loved being on the ice, right away,” the Division I hockey hopeful said, adding she dabbled in soccer, volleyball and basketball in grades 5-8 but discovered those sports couldn’t come close to generating the intensity and joy she experienced on rinks.
“Hockey, for me, was always No. 1 in those years, and it still is,” Olshansky said.
No. 37 on New Trier’s team is McNerney, the captain and a senior in her first year with the program. McNerney (9 goals and 6 assists through Jan. 29) played against Olshansky in AAA action years ago.
“I remember thinking, ‘Now there’s a solid player who’s got great dangles,’ while watching Mae compete,” recalled McNerney, one of NT’s fastest skaters. “I see her as a leader now, because she’s always positive and she’s good at getting her teammates’ spirits going. What I love about her game is the way she battles for pucks. She battles, battles, battles, never stops. If we’re down by a goal, the one who’s always crashing the net until the puck goes in is Mae.
“Her consistency,” the captain added, “is another one of her strengths. She’s never great in one game and then not so great in the next one.”
Olshansky’s No. 1 activity without a stick?
Photography, followed closely by longboarding.
Her mother, Shari, also enjoys taking shots from behind a camera. She shoots, she … captures images.
“My mom likes to take pictures of nature,” said Mae, who took a photography class at New Trier in her freshman year. “I like sports photography, and when I’m not doing that I enjoy taking pictures of my niece (Lana, 6) running around.”
It’s not hard to picture Olshansky skating around in college-hockey togs beginning in the winter of 2020-21. She attended a national hockey camp at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota and came away with an even stronger desire to develop her skills before hearing her name on Graduation Day. Her favorite hockey players are USA women’s team star Hilary Knight and University of Wisconsin standout forward Abby Roque.
“Hilary,” Olshansky said, “has great hands, insane hands. I saw her play at the Women’s World Championship [last spring in Plymouth, Michigan, where Team USA edged Canada 3-2 in overtime in the gold medal game].”
Nothing would thrill Olshansky more than to arrive at another big-time hockey venue, United Center, in late March — as a New Trier player in the AHAI state championship game. It’s where she watched NT teams compete for Blackhawk Cups in her grade-school years.
It’s where she envisioned herself, with a puck on her stick, sizing up a defense and looking for either an open lane or an open teammate.
“Mae sees everything when she’s on the ice,” Brush said. “Mae is an amazing hockey player.”
Notable: New Trier freshman forward Serena Seiple scored the goal — with 3:28 left in the second period — off a rebound in a 1-0 defeat of host Glenbrook on Jan. 28. A hard shot from sophomore left wing Mae Olshansky had ricocheted off Glenbrook’s goaltender. New Trier senior forward Abby Wieczorek filled in for starting goalie/all-stater Hayden Snow (illness) and blanked the reigning state champs. An AAA goaltender when she isn’t representing her school, Wieczorek had scored four goals and assisted on five others for NT through Jan. 29. … Senior forward Clare Mulhern and senior defenseman Emma Yang are serving as NT’s alternate captains this winter. … NT (17-2) amassed 61 goals in its last 11 games, spanning Nov. 26-Jan. 29. Its most decisive wins in the stretch were 9-1, 10-0, 9-0 and 7-0 decisions.