Bluebirds gear up for demanding schedule
Janesville’s high school co-op hockey team faced six state-ranked opponents in eight nonconference games en route to an 8-10-2 overall record.
Things don’t change much this season. The Bluebirds, who open up the 2007-08 season Tuesday night at home against Beloit Memorial in a Big Eight Conference clash, are gearing up for another demanding schedule, including dates with Marquette University School of Milwaukee and Hartland Arrowhead.
“We just have to continue to get better,” coach John Mauermann said. “You can’t hide your deficiencies once you get on the ice.
“It will be interesting to see how we compete against teams that really commit themselves to the sport.”
Mauermann, who is suspended the first five games of the season by the Janesville School Board for disciplinary reasons, welcomes back his top three scorers along with goalie David Jacobson. The Bluebirds were 6-4-2 in the Big Eight a year ago in finishing fourth and need to find a dependable second and third line.
“We’re going to get a chance to see what some kids can do that haven’t had the opportunity at the varsity level,” Mauermann said. “It’s an opportunity for someone to grab some playing time if they can prove they belong on the ice.
“Our opponents will reflect what kind of effort we put in during the offseason. That’s going to be key.”
Jacobson, a Parker junior, was solid between the pipes a year ago. He stood on his head at times in carrying the team, and now a year older and stronger, could be headed for a breakout season.
“You can’t play hockey without a good goalie,” Mauermann said. “You can’t just be OK at that position.
“David is a good goalie who is going to come to play every night. You start from there and work your way up.”
Craig senior Kenny Durfee led the team in scoring a year ago and could start on the first line with Parker junior Ross Mauermann and Craig junior Zach Bayreuther. Mauermann, the coach’s son, and Bayreuther were two and three in scoring on the team last season.
Mauermann and Bayreuther will likely be on the first line, but Durfee could move to the second line to give the Bluebirds a legitimate scoring threat on that line. Parker sophomore Aaron Jacobson is also penciled in on one of the first two lines, while Craig seniors Tom Tralmer and Bentle Geldard are also vying for spots on the second line. Parker sophomore Joe Allen is also in the mix.
“It’s tough to find a lot of consistency on a team when all of the scoring comes from one line,” coach Mauermann said. “We’ve got to have kids step up on our second and third lines if we’re going to be successful.
“Like I said before, the opportunity is there. Hopefully, a couple of kids will take charge.”
Other skaters hoping to log ice time—primarily on the third line—are Parker junior Grant Jahns, Craig junior Sly Flynn, Craig senior Ryan Gentz and Parker sophomore Ryan Shelton.
Defensively, the Bluebirds must replace four-year starter Joe McCann. Craig junior Derek Mussey and Cougar senior Kaleb Eichman will anchor the defensive front, as well as Parker senior Jarod Hilmer and Craig junior Mike Valentine.
“I think we’re going to be OK defensively,” coach Mauermann said. “Derek and Kaleb saw extensive time on the ice last year, while Jarod knows what is expected back there.
“Michael gives us a little bit of an intimidation factor with his size,” Mauermann said of the 265-pound Valentine who was a first-team All-Big Eight offensive lineman this year. “He’s really improved.”
Mauermann expects Middleton to be the front-runner in the Big Eight. Where will the Bluebirds end up?
“The key for us will be to stay healthy,” Mauermann said. “We don’t have a lot of proven depth on this team.
“You have to work hard each day and hope that you can build as the season goes along. Right now, we just want to get better each day.”
All home games
at Janesville Ice Skating Center
NOVEMBER: 27—Beloit Memorial, 7 p.m.
DECEMBER: 1—At Madison West (MIA), 8 p.m.; 4—Sun Prairie, 7 p.m.; 6—Middleton, 7 p.m.; 11—At Madison Memorial (MIA), 5:30 p.m.; 13—At Hartland Arrowhead (Mullet), 6:30 p.m.; 20—At Madison La Follette/East (Hartmeyer), 8 p.m.; 22—Rockford Icemen, 5:30 p.m.; 29—At McFarland (Community Ice Center), 7 p.m.
JANUARY: 5—At Beloit Memorial, 8 p.m.; 8—Madison West, 7 p.m.; 11—At Milwaukee University School (Uihlein), 7 p.m.; 15—At Sun Prairie, 7 p.m.; 19—At Middleton, TBD; 24—Kettle Moraine, 7 p.m.; 26—Tomah, 5:30 p.m.; 29—Madison Memorial, 7 p.m.
FEBRUARY: 2—At Milwaukee Marquette (Eble), 7 p.m.; 5—Waupun, 7 p.m.; 9—La Follette/East, 5:30 p.m.