Bluebirds' goal is to make Eau Claire Memorial sweat in final period
That’s the key for the Janesville Bluebirds heading into the WIAA Division 1 quarterfinal hockey game against unbeaten and top-ranked Eau Claire Memorial at 5 p.m. Thursday at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison.
The Old Abes are 23-0 and have outscored their opponents 156-19.
Janesville coach John Mauermann knows his third-ranked Bluebirds (19-1-2) enter as the underdog, and he hopes that works in his team’s favor.
“Everyone is going to be looking at how good Eau Claire is,” Mauermann said. “And that’s fine, because they’ve got a nice team. But I’m excited to see our kids play and prove that we can compete.
“Somehow, these (Janesville) kids have always found a way this season to get to the third period with a chance to win. I can’t guarantee that Thursday, but I really believe we will find a way to do that.”
Janesville’s high school co-op team doesn’t have the same gaudy stats as Eau Claire Memorial, but the level of competition likely has something to do with it.
The Bluebirds have played seven teams that were state-ranked at one point this season, while the Old Abes only big test came in a 6-5 nonconference win over perennial power Superior.
Janesville has scored 105 goals in 22 games and has allowed only 30—including four shutouts for goalie David Jacobson.
Mauermann’s son, Ross, leads the Bluebirds in scoring with 47 points on 18 goals and 29 assists. Janesville Craig junior Zach Bayreuther is second on the team in scoring with 28 points, but his status for Thursday’s game is in doubt due to a bout of mononucleosis.
Janesville Parker sophomore Aaron Jacobson leads the team with 20 goals. Craig senior Kaleb Eichman and Parker senior Jarod Hilmer, along with Cougar juniors Michael Valentine and Derek Mussey, anchor a strong defensive unit.
“There’s a lot of unselfishness on this team,” coach Mauermann said. “These kids trust each other and work well together on the ice.
“They enjoy the game and enjoy playing together. If you work hard on this team and are patient enough to let things happen on the ice, the opportunities are going to come. You can’t just stop one kid on this team because somebody else will step up.”
Besides not letting the Old Abes jump out to an early lead, Mauermann believes several other factors will decide Thursday’s game. Staying out of the penalty box and avoiding too many odd-man rushes are crucial for the Bluebirds, along with being in position to make plays.
One advantage the Bluebirds will have will be skating on the bigger ice surface at the Alliant Energy Center. Speed and getting out on the break are two crucial areas where the Bluebirds have thrived this season.
“We like our defensemen to move the puck up the ice, and there’s more opportunity for that at the Coliseum (Alliant),” Mauermann said. “People are spread out more on the bigger ice, but the key to that being effective is to stay out of the penalty box. We have to play 5-on-5 for that to work.”
Senior forward Jefferson Dahl and sophomore forward Shayne McLaughlin lead the Old Abes. Dahl and McLaughlin have combined for 60 goals and 48 assists, while starting goalie Brady Sand allows 0.92 goals per game with six shutouts.
Eau Claire Memorial has outscored its three tournament opponents 26-3.
“They have a lot of depth and a lot of seniors skating,” coach Mauermann said. “I don’t know if their goaltender has really been tested this season other than Superior, so I’m hoping we can get some shots to the net early.
“The word up north is that the overall hockey talent is down. Like I said, if we can get to the third period with a chance to win, anything can happen. We’ve been in a lot of close games, and I don’t think they have been.”
WIAA Boys State Hockey
At Alliant Energy Center, Madison
11 a.m.—Mosinee (19-4) vs. Madison Edgewood (21-2)
1:15 p.m.—Wisconsin Rapids (16-7) vs. Appleton (20-2)
5 p.m.—Janesville (19-1-2) vs. Eau Claire Memorial (23-0)
7:15 p.m.—Superior (17-6) vs. Milwaukee University School (14-7-2)
5 p.m.—Mosinee/Madison Edgewood winner vs. Wisconsin Rapids/Appleton winner
7:15 p.m.—Janesville/Eau Claire Memorial winner vs. Superior/Milwaukee University School winner
2:30 p.m.—Semifinal winners