Janesville74.7°

Janesville hockey player is goal orientated

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JOHN N. BARRY
November 6, 2009

Ozzie Smith had a Hall of Fame career with the St. Louis Cardinals.


Dan “Ozzie” Olszewski is hoping to extend his career through the St. Louis Bandits.


A Janesville Craig High graduate, the 20-year-old Olszewski is in his second season with the Bandits—the three-time defending champions of the North American Hockey League. Olszewski is captain of the team and leads the Bandits (12-3-1) in scoring with 15 points on seven goals and eight assists.


NAHL competition helps players make the transition from midget and high school hockey to college hockey by creating an environment that is highly competitive, encourages skill development and provides time for physical growth and maturity.


Teams play against their own division and against other divisions to maximize exposure and enhance competition. Each team plays a 58-game regular season schedule which runs from September to April, with exhibition games and league playoff games providing additional contests.


The Bandits play in the five-team South Division of the NAHL, while the expansion Janesville Jets reside in the five-team North Division. The only way the Bandits and Jets could play each other is in the NAHL postseason tournament.


Olszewski lives with a host family in Chesterfield, Mo., but spends most of his free time at the team’s Hardee’s IcePlex skating facility.


Although Olszewski has enjoyed his time with the Bandits, he hopes to land a Division I college scholarship by the end of the current NAHL season. Two Bandit teammates have already signed for next year. Defenseman Brad Smith is headed to Ohio State and defenseman Mike Gunn will play at Michigan State. Olzsewski has gotten a couple of offers from some smaller Eastern Division I schools, but doesn’t think anything will happen until the latter part of the season.


“There’s nothing too serious right now, and that’s how it normally goes with players from our league,” Olszewski said about making college commitments. “Most schools wait to see what kind of year guys have and where they might need help the most.


“But right now, I’m kind of living the dream. I’m doing what I want to do as far still being able to play hockey. I enjoy this community. I’ve got a great host family, and I’m still less than six hours away from home.”


Olszewski has been a key factor in the Bandits’ quick start. The 6-foot, 190-pounder has already surpassed last season’s point total of 13 and is thriving on the power play unit.


“Ozzie has been great for us,” St. Louis assistant coach Rocky Russo said. “He’s our captain and a leader, on and off the ice. He was a role player for the team last season and has developed into a complete hockey player.


“He has the potential to be an excellent Division I college player.”


Always a gifted skater and adept puck handler, Olszewski said logging more ice time is the key behind the early-season scoring outburst. He played primarily on the third or fourth line last season but has been elevated to the top line as well as the power play unit this season.


Although the season has started off well for both Olzsewski and the Bandits, he knows the dream of college hockey will not be fulfilled without a strong work ethic—both on and off the ice.


“This is what I want to be doing,” Olszewski said. “And to take that next step, I have to pick my game up even more. It comes down to knowing what you can do on the ice and how hard you work off the ice.


“I’ve learned that part of the reason I’m scoring more this year is also because I’ve been able to be in the right spot at the right time.”


And hopefully, there are plenty of Division I colleges taking notice.




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