Travis Kernen ruined Janesville’s hopes of securing some late-season momentum and upsetting one of the Big Eight Conference’s best teams.
Kernen’s power-play goal 11:11 into the third period was the difference as the Sun Prairie Cardinals escaped the Janesville Bluebirds, 4-3, on Saturday at the Sun Prairie Ice Arena.
The Bluebirds made things much closer Saturday after being shut out 6-0 by the Cardinals on Nov. 30.
Janesville (5-15, 4-7 Big Eight) missed a chance to tie Middleton for fifth place in the Big Eight. Sun Prairie (18-4-1, 11-3 Big Eight) remains in second place, two points back of Verona.
Chris Rowles and Jake Veldkamp scored to give Sun Prairie a 2-0 lead in the first period.
“We came out and played pretty well,” Bluebirds coach John Mauermann said. “But we had two turnovers and all of sudden, we’re down two.”
Janesville’s Cullen Peterson fed Ben Coulter, who scored on a wraparound to get the Bluebirds on the board in the second period.
Kaden Brunson’s rebound goal put Sun Prairie back on top by two, but Coulter scored to cut the deficit to one.
“I don’t know how he did it but with two guys dragging him down, he somehow got the puck between the goalie’s legs,” Mauermann said. “All of a sudden we’re within one.”
Hayden Funk set up Brian Elliott for the game-tying goal 4:26 into the third period, but Kernen’s late goal pushed the Cardinals back in front.
The Bluebirds had a man advantage for the final four minutes of the game, and the Bluebirds hit the post once but could not get the equalizer.
“I don’t think there was a whistle those four minutes,” Mauermann said. “It was a long four minutes, but we came up short.”
Owen Aldrich made 35 saves in the loss.
The Bluebirds have four games left in the regular season. They have a makeup game against Kenosha at the Janesville Ice Arena at 6 p.m. on Monday, followed by road games Tuesday at Madison Memorial, Thursday at Madison La Follette/West and Saturday at Beloit Memorial.
SUN PRAIRIE 4, JANESVILLE 3
Janesville 0 2 1—3
Sun Prairie 2 1 1—4
SP—Chris Rowles, 2:25. SP—Jake Veldkamp (Rowles), 10:28.
J—Ben Coulter (Cullen Peterson), 6:57. SP—Kaden Brunson (Travis Kernan, Benett Halbleib), 9:54. J—Coulter, 15:02.
J—Brian Elliott (Hayden Funk), 4:26. SP—Kernen (Brunson), 11:11.
Saves—Owen Aldrich (J) 35, Owen Leatherberry (SP) 15.