Not even a dreadful start to the season clouded John Mauermann’s optimism for the Janesville Bluebirds.
The city’s high school boys co-op hockey team lost its first eight games and started 1-11, but the longtime coach kept faith in his young team.
He knew the Bluebirds were battling the injury bug early on and that several players on the roster were playing varsity hockey for the first time.
Mauermann’s hunch was right. Janesville ended the regular season on a two-game winning streak thanks to Saturday’s 5-2 Big Eight Conference win over Beloit Memorial.
The Bluebirds head into the postseason 6-5 in their last 11 games.
Kyler Kobs had two goals and Dylan McGuire added a goal and an assist as Janesville swept the regular-season series with Beloit. The two teams open up WIAA postseason play Thursday at the Janesville Ice Arena.
Mauermann said it’s no secret why the fortunes have changed for his team.
“We’ve been very competitive the last month and given ourselves a chance to win every game in the third period,” Mauermann said. “We weren’t going to walk over anybody, so we have to work hard each and every shift.
“The key tonight was that we played with the lead. We got the puck to the net and took advantage of some opportunities they gave us.”
Kobs gave Janesville a 2-0 lead in the first period. He opened the scoring at 2:20 of the first on an assist from Ben Coulter and made it 2-0 at 15:40 on assists from Coulter and Conor Joyce. Beloit sliced the lead in half with 35 seconds left in the opening period on Casper Clark’s goal.
The teams traded goals in the second period. AJ Russotto gave the Bluebirds a 3-1 lead at 8:34 of the second, but the Purple Knights responded on Aiden Saunders goal at 11:42 of the period.
Owen Aldrich played well in the net for Janesville. The Janesville Craig senior stopped 16 of 18 shots he faced.
Cooper Iverson’s power-play goal pushed Janesville’s lead to 4-2 at 14:31 of the third, and McGuire capped off the scoring with an empty-net goal with 40 seconds left.
Mauermann said his team can’t look past Beloit on Thursday despite outscoring them 8-2 in the two regular-season games.
“We just have to show up and play,” Mauermann said. “We can’t worry about what happened earlier. Hockey is a game of inches. A goalie can make a save on one opportunity or the puck hits the pipe, but then the next time down the ice not make the save or it ricochets off the pipe and goes in.
“The bottom line is that our second and third lines have to play well. Our third line is definitely getting better and our second line is really competing. That’s what you have to have at this time of the year.”
JANESVILLE 5, BELOIT 2
Janesville 2 1 2—5
Beloit Memorial 1 1 0—2
J—Kyler Kobs (Ben Coulter) 2:20. J—Kobs (Coulter, Conor Joyce) 15:40. B—Casper Clark (Branden Cooper) 16:25.
J—AJ Russotto (Hayden Funk) 8:34. B—Aiden Saunders (Hunter Hirst) 11:42.
J—Cooper Iverson (Dylan McGuire) pp 14:31. J—McGuire en 16:20.
Saves—Owen Aldrich (J) 16, Taven Santucci (B) 29.