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Oleksy plans to make the most of his three years at LSSU
Feb. 3, 2007
By LINDA BOUVET, LSSU Sports Information Director
A few years ago, Steven Oleksy was torn between playing a sport that would enable him to go immediately from high school to college or taking his chances in the junior hockey ranks.
After graduating from L'Anse Cruise North High School in 2004, he opted to play baseball at Macomb Community College.
"It was not the best situation and did not work out the way I was hoping," said Oleksy, a sophomore defenseman on the Laker hockey team. "The next year, I went back and played hockey."
Oleksy spent last season with the Traverse City North Stars and was the leading scorer among defensemen with 11 goals and 19 assists. He became the first North Stars player to earn a college scholarship.
"It's a black spot on my resume - having only three years of eligibility left," Oleksy said. "I'm so lucky to be picked up here by Coach Roque. I always liked hockey better, but my parents were big on the school thing. They wanted me to stay in school."
It may be a bit much to say that Oleksy has a new lease on life now that he's wearing a Laker hockey uniform, but he wants to make the most a second chance to prove himself in the college ranks. He plans to make the most of every minute of his three seasons at LSSU.
"I'm still sticking around after practice every day, taking shots, getting the feel of things and trying to relax a little bit," he said. "Coming in for my first year, but having only three years left, I'm trying to make a big impact right away."
The 6-0, 185-pounder from Chesterfield, Mich., has played in 25 of 29 games this season, has two assists and a -2 plus/minus rating.
Oleksy, who grew up watching Laker hockey, referred to his current status as a member of the LSSU hockey team as "nothing short of a miracle."
"It really hit me when I was watching Inside CCHA," said Oleksy, a close friend of former Laker Chris Peterson's family. "It's every kid's dream to play Division I hockey. I'm a big kid living out a dream."
Oleksy still plays inline hockey with Peterson, a captain on Team USA's inline hockey team. In fact, he hopes to make the U.S. junior national team this summer.
Others who have influenced Oleksy's hockey career include his dad, Andrew, and Fred Costello, who were his coaches throughout youth hockey. Scott Gardiner and Mike Stapleton were his junior coaches. Brother, Dan, who helped pave the way, won two Division II club championships at Oakland University and played pro hockey in the United League.
"I'm thankful to him for being tough on me when I was a little guy," Oleksy said of his older brother.
Despite having some experience at the college level, Oleksy is thankful for Laker teammates who helped him through his first semester at LSSU.
"Josh Sim helped me out the first couple weeks," Oleksy said. "I definitely had the jitters. Sim talked me through them, as did Dom (Osman). Both told me to keep going. Dom has been a good role model for me, both on and off the ice."
Captain Barnabas Birkeland, a fellow defenseman, has also played a role in helping Oleksy acclimate to Division I hockey. He learned quickly that regardless of how young a team, every player has to do his part.
"I'm stallmates with Barney in the lockerroom, and he's real positive, talking to me and teaching me things that will help me in the future. He reassured me that when things aren't going your way, just keep working hard and it will come around. Everybody goes through that."
Oleksy is one of four rookies on Lake State's defensive unit that is ranked 11th nationally in team goals-against at 2.41. The blue line corps is keenly aware of the need to support one of the nation's top goaltenders, Jeff Jakaitis.
"There's always a lot of pressure on Jakaitis," Oleksy said. "It comes from being one of the standouts on the team. When things aren't going right, we all put too much pressure on ourselves instead of relaxing and playing like we have our whole lives.
"I think we're doing really well. During the first half we surprised a lot of people. We've had some ups and downs, but they haven't changed our attitude at all."
Lake Superior State Men's Ice Hockey