IN THE SPOTLIGHT
New Trier sophomore forward Kate McLaughlin stood on a sheet of ice with a reigning USA women’s hockey gold medal winner, skated in the home stadium of the Chicago Blackhawks and scored the first goal and the last goal of her team’s 5-1 victory in the Amateur Hockey Association Illinois (AHAI) state title game — all on March 24.
How was your Saturday last weekend?
McLaughlin’s was “Mac”-nificent
“An amazing feeling,” the Winnetkan said of helping her team rout reigning state champion Glenbrook South at United Center in Chicago, some 15 miles northeast of Oak Lawn, the hometown of Team USA forward Kendall Coyne, who dropped the ceremonial puck before the start of the title game.
McLaughlin — a Team Illinois (AAA) member and first-year New Trier skater — controlled a swift pass from senior captain Maureen McNerney and proceeded, at full speed, to execute a couple of slick moves before poking the puck past Glenbrook South freshman goaltender Lauren Abraham in the third minute of the first period.
The shorthanded goal triggered UC’s freight-train-sounding horn and NT’s three-goal burst in the first period.
“Skilled, very skilled,” New Trier junior goaltender and Championship Game MVP Abbey Wieczorek said of McLaughlin.
“Great dangles,” McNerney added, “and Kate proved to be a strong leader for a player in her first year with the program.”
New Trier first-year coach Bill Brush coached McLaughlin back in McLaughlin’s years (ages 12-14) with the Winnetka Warriors.
“I love her game,” Brush said. “She’s fast, strong. If the puck is on her stick, it’s really hard to take it away. She also plays off the puck well, gets open, and she reads plays well.”
McLaughlin’s pair of goals on the rink at 1901 West Madison Street upped her total to 13 for New Trier (21-5-1) this winter.
“It’s been fun, being on a team like this,” McLaughlin, also a field hockey player at New Trier, said at a point in the day when the fun was just beginning for the victors. “I enjoyed playing for a big school and with a bunch of AAA players for teammates. We played a great game all-around, and we played together. Those first couple of goals got us going.
“After Glenbrook South scored,” she added, “we kept playing hard.”
And scoring. New Trier’s answer to South’s lone goal with 9:56 left in the second period came off the stick of sophomore wing Mae Olshansky nearly 90 seconds later. Olshansky’s team-high 34th goal of the season gave NT a 4-1 lead.
McLaughlin struck her second goal of the game with 4:30 left in the third period.
“Reserved and not excitable,” Brush said of McLaughlin’s personality. “I like her even-keeled nature. She’s an intelligent player and an awesome kid.”
NT’s state title last weekend was the program’s first since 2014 and third in seven years. Sophomore forward Julia Laden and junior defenseman Maddie Babnik (power play) tallied top-seeded New Trier’s other goals against third-seeded Glenbrook South (16-7-3).
Sophomore forward Sophia Ewing contributed two assists; Olshansky, Babnik, sophomore defenseman Claire VanDamme and junior defenseman Addie Budington each had an assist for the champs.
Four of Wieczorek’s saves came on breakaway shots, as the AAA Chicago Mission netminder improved to 4-1-1 in a New Trier sweater.
“New Trier played a good game, with really good goaltending,” Glenbrook South coach and AHAI Coach of the Year Steven Hamelin said.
Junior defenseman Maddie Dunham (on an assist from senior forward Hannah Jensen) scored South’s lone goal.
New Trier established momentum en route to its 3-0 lead after the first 15-minute period and maintained it via its penalty-killing unit, which ended up quelling all six of Glenbrook South’s power plays.
Special team, indeed.
“We’re usually a slow-start team,” Brush said.
“Beautiful to come here to UC,” the coach added. “It’s a powerful place.”
Notable: New Trier junior goaltender Hayden Snow, junior defenseman Maddie Babnik, senior forward Maureen McNerney, sophomore winger Mae Olshansky and freshman forward Sabrina Shvartsman made the 2017-18 AHAI all-state team. Snow finished with a 17-4 record and an impressive 1.62 goals against average. Olshansky paced her team in goals (34) and points (48), and Shvartsman delivered a team-best 21 assists. … New Trier outscored its three playoff opponents 19-4 this winter. The club began its playoff run with a 10-0 dismantling of Evanston in a state quarterfinal. … New Trier girls hockey coach Bill Brush, on McNerney, a senior captain in her first year of high school hockey: “It doesn’t look like she’s going to play hockey in college; she’s planning to go in a different direction. She has the ability, the game, to play in college. Great leader, from a super family.” … She’s the (thirty) one: New Trier junior goaltender Abbey Wieczorek (listed as No. 22 on the team’s roster) chose to wear a No. 31 jersey in the AHAI girls state hockey title game last weekend. A goaltender wearing No. 31 happened to help a team win a state championship last winter at United Center. The goalie’s name: Hayden Wieczorek, Abbey’s older brother and now a New Trier senior, who suited up for state champion New Trier Green in the 2016-17 season. The sweater Abbey wore for the game last weekend was the same one Hayden had donned at UC last March. Also a New Trier forward this winter, Abbey had four goals and six assists in 21 games.