JVG_211123_BLUEBIRD_PREVIEW

Jake Schaffner is hugged by Tyler Steuck (10) after scoring a goal for the Bluebirds in their regional semifinal game against New Berlin on Tuesday, Feb. 2. Schhaffner is a key returning player for the Bluebirds in 2021-22.

JANESVILLE

Bigger. Stronger. Better.

That’s what head coach John Mauermann sees in the 2021-22 Janesville Bluebirds.

The city’s high school boys co-op hockey team struggled to a 5-13 record last season, but Mauermann believes you’ll see a much different product take the ice when the Bluebirds open play next Tuesday.

“It’s really interesting to see how some kids grow from their sophomore year to their junior year,” Mauermann said. “Kids that I was looking eye-to-eye with last year, I’m now looking up to. And on the ice, they’re quicker and stronger with the puck.

“We might not have had the record we wanted last year, but there were only maybe two games where we did have a chance to win in the third period, and a lot of those kids are back.”

Headlining the list of returnees are Jake Schaffner and Tyler Steuck. Schaffner led the team with 32 points on 11 goals and 22 assists, while Steuck led the team with 17 goals.

Mauermann said those two should make up a formidable first line.

“Both of those two are excellent athletes who compete at a high level at whatever they do,” Mauermann said. “They’re both coming off real good football seasons, and we hope their competitiveness rubs off on everyone else.

“Schaffner is a gifted skater, and he’s probably grown 6 inches from last year. And Tyler has high goals and has the potential to not only play at a high level high school-wise, but also possibly at the next level.”

Schaffner and Steuck are both Janesville Craig juniors and could be joined on the first line at some point by classmate Ian Perkins. Mauermann said Perkins will anchor the blue line to start but could step up and add another strong scoring option at forward.

“Ian is another one of those juniors that has grown up a lot,” Mauermann said. “He’s a very active and aggressive skater, and if he can make that strong first pass from the blue line, it’s really going to open things up for us offensively.”

Perkins will be joined defensively by Craig sophomore Neal Naveo, Janesville Parker junior Lucas Young and Craig junior Joshua Hanekamp.

Craig junior Dylin Thong will likely join Schaffner and Steuck on the first line with the second line consisting of Craig junior Bryce Sullivan and Craig sophomore Skyler Swearingen.

The third line features Craig senior Kadin Garcia, Parker junior Keegan Erickson, along with possibly Craig freshmen Ben Schaffner, and Alex Falligant, or Parker freshman Drew King.

“Dylin Thong is a key guy for us because of his speed and quickness,” Mauermann said, “After that, it’s a matter of finding the best combinations for us.

“I think defensively, we’ll be pretty strong with the four guys we’ll have back there.”

Jaicy Campbell starts in goal. The Parker junior was 0-1 last season but gained valuable experience, according to Mauermann.

“Jaicy is another one of those good athletes we have on the team,” Mauermann said. “He competes hard, and I really think he’ll be a quality goaltender for us.”

{strong style=”text-align: center;”}JANESVILLE BLUEBIRDS 2021-22 SCHEDULE{/strong}

(7 p.m. starting time unless indicated)

November: 30—East/La Follette

December: 2—At Madison West 7:30 p.m.; 4—Middleton 3 p.m.; 7—At Oregon; 9—Sun Prairie; 16—Baraboo; 21—Madison Memorial; 23—At Beloit Memorial 7:15 p.m. 28, 29, 30—At Joe Raymond Holiday Tournament, TBD

January: 4—Verona 8—At Waunakee 2:30 p.m.; 11—At Madison Memorial 7:30 p.m.; 13—At East/La Follette 7:30 p.m.; 18—At Middleton 7:30 p.m.; 20—Whitefish Bay; 27—Madison West

February: 1—At Sun Prairie 7:30 p.m.; 3—Arrowhead; 5—At Verona; 8—At Reedsburg; 10—Kettle Moraine; 12—Beloit Memorial 3 p.m.

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