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Janesville Bluebirds forward Ben Coulter (23), left, celebrates after his team’s first goal against Kettle Moraine in a game in 2016.

Angela Major

JANESVILLE

The Janesville Bluebirds, the city’s high school co-op boys hockey team, open the season tonight at Madison West.

Coach John Mauermann is eager to see who makes the most of the opportunity.

“We’re a work in progress simply because we’ve got to be able to find some depth on the second and third lines,” Mauermann said. “It’s going to come down to who’s working hard and who is willing to go out and compete.

“A lot of these guys had some success at the junior varsity level, but it’s a big challenge when you move to the varsity level.”

Janesville was 16-7-1 last season and finished second in the Big Eight. The top four scorers either graduated or are playing elsewhere this season, but the team’s first line should be very productive.

Janesville Craig junior Ben Coulter was fifth on the team in scoring last season and is joined on the first line by Craig’s Kyler Kobs and Cooper Iverson. Coulter had 16 goals last season, which was second on the team.

“Ben’s a kid that just brings it everyday in practice,” Mauermann said. “He’s just going to get better as the season goes on.

“And Kyler Kobs has a chance to be an outstanding forward. Iverson was the best kid on the ice as a JV player, and we’re excited to see him move up to the next level.”

Mauermann thinks Janesville Parker senior Nik Sitter could be the team’s top defenseman, but he’s not sure whether Sitter would be more beneficial on defense or at a forward spot.

One area that Mauermann is not worried about heading into tonight’s opener is in goal. Craig senior Owen Aldrich gets the start in net after a solid JV season a year ago.

“Owen’s biggest strength is that he’s a very good athlete,” Mauermann said. “He’s going to keep us in some games because of his ability back there.”

Craig junior Kyle Ward is expected to begin the season on the second line, while Parker sophomore Cullen Peterson is also expected to play on either the second or third line when he recovers from a bout with mononucleosis. Freshman Walker Kulas of Craig is also a likely candidate on one of the top three lines.

Craig sophomore Anthony Russotto and Craig senior Hayden Funk, along with Parker junior Charlie DeGarmo will be counted on to bring a physical presence on defense.

“We’ve got some new faces taking on new roles,” Mauermann said. “But that’s fun to see from a coaching standpoint. Practices are very competitive and that’s what you want.

“It comes down to trying to get the pieces to fit together. It’s not going to happen in one or two games, but I think we have a chance to do that.”

Janesville’s schedule:

(Games start at 7 p.m. unless otherwise indicated)

November: 28—At Madison West; 30—Sun Prairie.

December: 5—Kettle Moraine; 7—Madison Memorial; 12—Germantown; 14—Hartland Arrowhead; 16—At Middleton, 8 p.m.; 19—At Verona; 21—Beloit; 27—At Joe Raymond Tournament, 4 p.m.; 28—At Joe Raymond Tournament, 4 p.m.; 29—At Joe Raymond Tournament, TBD.

January: 4—Eastside Lakers; 9—Madison West; 11—At Sun Prairie; 18—Cedarburg; 20—At Milwaukee Marquette; 23—At Kenosha; 25—At Baraboo/Portage; 30—Middleton.

February: 1—Verona; 6—At Madison Memorial; 8—At Eastside Lakers, 8 p.m.; 10—At Beloit Memorial, TBD.

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