The Janesville Bluebirds had plenty of opportunity to give up Tuesday night.

Playing Verona, the third-ranked team in the state, the host Bluebirds refused to quit in a valiant effort that ended with a 6-5 loss for Janesville.

“Just a great effort by the guys to keep at it and keep it close tonight,” said Bluebirds coach John Mauermann, whose team lost 10-0 in the first meeting with the Wildcats. “We got a chance to win, and we just couldn’t get the puck in at the end.”

The Bluebirds gave up the first goal of the game on a shorthanded breakaway and were down 2-0 midway through the first period.

Charlie DeGarmo scored his first goal of the year for the Bluebirds to make it 2-1 before forward Ben Coulter tied the game 2-2 on a rebound.

Verona responded with a goal 10 seconds later, but Janesville’s Tyler Edwards made it 3-3 on another rebound with two minutes to play in the first.

“We got down early, but we worked our way back into it,” Mauermann said.

Verona opened the second period with a pair of goals to make it 5-3, but again the Bluebirds responded with a goal from Coulter to make it 5-4 before DeGarmo scored off a faceoff to tie the game at five.

The Wildcats closed the scoring with a game-winner from Ryan Mirwald with four minutes to play. Mirwald shot the puck from a bad angle on the power play and banked the puck off of Janesville goalie Cody Kaas and into the net. Kaas finished with 35 saves.

“We didn’t get the win, but I think the improvement is easily seen,” Mauermann said. “We’ve been playing quality opponents all season, so if we keep working hard the results are going to come.”

The Bluebirds host Madison Memorial Thursday at 7 p.m.

VERONA 6, JANESVILLE 5

Verona 3 2 1—6

Janesville 3 1 1—5

First period

V—Mirwald (Jake Osiecki), 1:53. V—Michael Fischer (Kade Binger, Drew Yeager), 8:16. J—DeGarmo (Coulter), 8:55. J—Coulter (Edwards, Conor Joyce), 14:09. V—Mack Keryluk, 14:23. J—Edwards (Coulter, Joyce), 14:49.

Second period

V—Keryluk (Ty Curtis), 4:42. V—Cale Rufenacht (Walker Haessig), 7:38. J—Coulter, 9:49.

Third period

J—DeGarmo (Edwards), 10:46. V—Mirwald, 12:50.

Saves—Kaas 35, Kaden Grant (V) 13, Breyden Enloe (V) 6.

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