Instant classic: Janesville Bantams savor triple-OT win
Janesville Youth Hockey’s Bantam team’s journey to a 3-2 triple-overtime, state-tournament victory over Fox Valley is etched in the minds of 12- and 13-year-olds, who bonded together through a 40-game season.
The 11-player Bantam team was reduced to eight skaters and a goalie for the consolation final of a two-day, eight-team state hockey tournament at Hartland Arrowhead.
“We lost a player in the second game,” coach Eric Steurer said. “We had two double-roster kids (younger players allowed to play at the Bantams level), but only one was available.’’
Although the team played with 11 for most of season, Janesville coaches Steurer, and brother Luke, knew the team had to lace its skates tight to survive three 15-minute periods against Fox Valley.
“Fox Valley had 14 or 15 skaters,” Steurer said. “Almost twice as many as we did.”
The Janesville troop stood up to the task.
“The kids had to play six, seven minutes at a time before they could get a break,” Eric said. “It’s a fast sport, and players are going back and forth for four or five minutes at a time.’’
The Bantams prevailed in the marathon game when Jack Wagner scored the winner— fittingly shorthanded—with an assist from Cole Scieszinski.
“We got a lucky bounce,” said Steurer. “(Wagner) shot it home, and that was the game.’’
The bigger Fox Valley team was impressed with Janesville’s conditioning.
“The (Fox Valley) coach said he couldn’t believe how well-conditioned we were,’’ Steurer said.
Even with players in good shape, they were still tired, and Steurer had to resort to arm-twisting tournament officials to give his team a small break.
Tournament rules maintained the ice should be resurfaced once to speed up the games. Going into the third overtime, Steurer pleaded with officials to resurface the ice just to give his players an extra three-minute break.
“I think (tournament official) got fed up with us,” Steurer said. “He said, ‘fine, whatever you guys want.’’’
The Bantams had a chance to catch their breath, and went on to beat the odds.
“They fought like that and played like that the whole year,” Steurer said.
The smaller team pulled together for the common good. A trait that is not so prevalent on larger teams dominated by a few strong players.
“They built up unselfish trust in each other,” Steurer said. “They had to rely on each other and not just rely on one person.’’
Janesville’s scoring and assists were equally distributed.
“We played 40 games, and we scored about 200 goals,” Steurer said. “That’s five goals a game, and five kids had the majority of those goals.
“You have teams where a couple players are head and shoulders above the rest, and they score most of the goals, where as these kids were all pretty close,” Steurer added.
The Bantams’ victory was a testament to putting the team ahead of the individual. It’s a good lesson every player and parent should learn.