Verona tops Bluebirds
JANESVILLE--The Janesville Bluebirds knew they’d be taking a step up in competition when they began the Big Eight Conference boys hockey season this week.
For two-plus periods on Tuesday night, they hung tight with two-time defending conference champion Verona.
Tyler Perkins’ second goal of the night had the Bluebirds within one goal in the early stages of the third period, but the Wildcats pulled away down the stretch for a 7-2 victory at the Janesville Ice Arena.
“As the game went on, for a couple spurts there, they played smarter than we did,” Janesville coach John Mauermann said. “They created more space, moved the puck and found open spaces. In some ways, right now they’re a little more skilled than we are.”
“Effort can overcome some of that, and that’s what kept us in the game.”
Verona got on the scoreboard midway though the first period, but Janesville answered less than 40 seconds later and felt good about a 1-1 draw after one.
The Bluebirds, who were without junior defenseman Harry Henschler, were outshot 21-8 through two periods and trailed 3-1. But they got right back in the mix just 18 seconds into the third period.
Janesville got the puck to the front of the net, and Verona couldn’t cover the loose puck. Perkins took a backhand swipe that found the back of the net to make it 3-2.
“The big key is just to understand what level we need to be at to be one of the better teams in the league,” Mauermann said. “(Spending a lot of time in the defensive zone) isn’t always the end of the world if you’re not giving good looks away. That’s part of what we can learn.”
That became more of an issue as the game wore on.
The Wildcats pushed their advantage to 4-2 with less than 10 minutes left when Harry Seid found Brogan Baker with a nifty pass through the slot. Baker, who finished with a hat trick, easily deposited the puck in the empty left side of the net.
Verona added another goal 2:20 later, and then made the score appear much more lopsided with back-to-back goals with less than four minutes left.
“When somebody tries to do someone else’s job, now you’ve got a bigger mess,” Mauermann said. “That’s a part of learning.”
Janesville senior goalie Mike MacDougall stopped 34 shots.
The Bluebirds’ tough early test continues at home at 7 p.m. Thursday night against Sun Prairie.