Bluebirds back at state for first time since 2008

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John Barry
March 5, 2015

Ten years and counting.

That's how long several of the Janesville Bluebirds have been playing hockey for coach John Mauermann.

For the seniors on the city's boys high school co-op team, today could be the last time they lace up the skates and play together.

Hopefully, though, that moment won't come until Saturday.

Janesville (17-8-2) opens up play at the WIAA state tournament at 1:15 p.m. Thursday against Superior (11-15-1) in a quarterfinal game at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison. The victor moves into Friday's semis, with the state title game coming Saturday.

“None of us wants this ride to end,” senior left wing Sam Iverson said. “We've been playing together for so long that it's hard to believe it's almost over.”

Senior center Connor Perkins doesn't even want to think about the season ending.

“These guys are like family to me,' Perkins said. “Sam and I have been best friends since we first started playing when we were 7. And coach (Mauermann) has been the only coach most of us have ever had.”

Janesville enters the state tournament on a roll. The Bluebirds are on an eight-game unbeaten streak, including a dominating 7-2 win over Kettle Moraine/Mukwonago/Oconomowoc in the sectional final game last Saturday.

Perkins leads a balanced offensive attack with 47 points, while Iverson is second with 40. Tyler Perkins, Connor's younger brother, has 40 points and notched a hat trick in the sectional final win.

Mauermann moved JT Smithback to defense late in the season, and the move paid immediate dividends. The Janesville Craig senior bolstered the unit with his ability to get the puck quickly out of the defensive zone.

Another big addition has been the return of Craig High senior Harry Henschler, who left the Madison Capitols in October to concentrate on football. The presence of the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Henschler has opened up the offense for the Perkins brothers, Iverson and Craig junior Jack MacDougall.

“Harry's a difference-maker, there's no question about it,” Mauermann said. “In our last three games, all on perfectly legal hits, Harry broke the collarbone of three different players. Obviously, I don't like to ever see anyone get hurt, but when someone his size goes up against somebody 50 or 60 pounds lighter than him, that's what happens sometimes.

“And he needs to make his presence felt early against Superior. We have to establish ourselves, especially with a good hit by Harry or Nolan Steig to earn the respect of our opponent.”

Today's opponent is no stranger to the state tournament. Superior has won a record 12 state titles and qualified for state for the 13th time in the last 14 seasons. The Spartans played several regular-season games against teams from Minnesota, which makes their sub-.500 record a little deceiving.

“They're good every year,” Connor Perkins said of Superior. “But with the way we've played lately, we know we can play with anybody. We beat (Madison) Memorial, which made it to state, and Madison West, which was really good, too. We just have to come out and play our brand of hockey.”

It's a brand that has been in the works for more than 10 years.

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