The Janesville Bluebirds knew they would face an uphill battle in a sectional semifinal Tuesday against the top-seeded Waukesha Wings.
Playing key stretches with a skater in the penalty box made the challenge even tougher.
Waukesha moved a step closer to its third straight WIAA boys hockey state tournament berth by cashing in on two early power-play opportunities on the way to a 5-1 win over Janesville’s co-op team at Naga-Waukee Park Ice Arena.
“Bad timing,” Janesville coach John Mauermann said. “That was part of the night. It just kept hitting us.”
The Bluebirds (7-17) were coming off a memorable 6-5 overtime win over Beloit Memorial in their playoff opener.
But Janesville was hit with an early setback when Tyler Edwards was assessed a five-minute major for checking from behind.
After successfully killing the penalty for four minutes, Griffin Nickerson poked in a short rebound, rendering moot Janesville’s hard work.
“We got ourselves in a big hole with a five-minute penalty,” Mauermann said. “We killed four of it off, handily, and just got caught with a rebound in front.”
Kevin Broda beat Janesville’s penalty-kill unit with 55 seconds left in the opening period to make it 2-0.
Waukesha (18-4-3-1) outshot Janesville 45-17. The Wings will face Classic Eight Conference rival Marquette University on Friday in a sectional final. Waukesha has won 11 straight games, outscoring opponents 55-7 during the streak.
Garrett Wilderman led the Wings with a goal and three assists. Chad Larsen set up Wilderman for a one-timer to give the Wings a 3-0 lead at 4:42 in the second period.
“There are two parts of the story,” Mauermann said. “We could’ve had more discipline on one end, but at the same time if we finished something, you never know.”
While playing at full strength, the Bluebirds mostly stayed with the Wings. And Ben Coulter provided a spark when he held off a defender down the left boards before slotting a puck between the pads of Garrett Larsen at 5:49 in the second period.
It was the junior’s fifth playoff goal, coming after he played the hero with four goals against Beloit.
“Finally, in the second period we played five on five,” Mauermann said. “In seven minutes, we just took it to them. We really rocked them hard and created opportunities. We were there.”
But Waukesha’s Jacob Arndt barreled between two defenders and deked left around goalie Owen Aldrich to make it 4-1 with 12:17 to play. And Trenton Tucker added another goal two minutes later to put the game out of reach.
Waukesha muscled through one of the state’s most difficult schedules, which featured games against opponents nine currently-ranked opponents.
The battle-hardened Wings are now one win away from making another trip to Madison.
WAUKESHA 5, JANESVILLE 1
Janesville 0 1 0—1
Waukesha 2 1 2—5
W—Griffin Nickerson (Garrett Wilderman, Kevin Broda), 5:28. W—Kevin Broda (Wilderman), 16:05.
W—Wilderman (Chad Larsen, Trenton Tucker), 4:42. J—Ben Coulter (Kyler Kobs), 5:49.
W—Jacob Arndt (Thomas Knoke, Steven McGonagil), 4:43. W—Tucker (Larsen, Wilderman), 7:00
Saves—Owen Aldrich (J) 40, Garrett Larsen (W) 16.
EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this online story, as well as the print version, indicated Waukesha scored four of its goals on the power play.