The 2022-23 high school hockey season is upon us, and no one is looking forward to it more than the Janesville Bluebirds. Janesville finished the 2021-22 season with a positive record ending in 14 wins and 10 losses. It was a great season for the Bluebirds, and it was a strong indicator of the team's future potential. Without a doubt, their future is looking bright.
One of the major headlines for this season includes the addition of Head Coach, Nick English. English served as the assistant coach of the Bluebirds for 11 years but it is his first one as head coach. English replaces Head Coach John Mauermann who retired from the job last year after coaching for 36 years. I was fortunate to have English as our assistant coach on Varsity when I was in high school. He is always positive and pushes you to be the best you can at all times both on and off the ice. From a personal perspective, there is a ton to be excited about with him now as head coach. I look forward to seeing his style of coaching evolve and grow. I also wonder what he will change and do differently. Or will he continue in the same coaching style as Mauermann? We won't know until the season gets under way.
The Bluebirds stand to be one of the most formidable opponents in the Big 8. Several key players are coming into their prime. The roster is made of essentially the same team as last year but now older. Suffice to say, the team will have more depth with all the underclassmen coming up. The first line for the Birds will be one of the deadliest lines in the state made up of three standout seniors, Jake Schaffner (72 points), Tyler Steuck (72 points), and Ian Perkins (32 points). Tyler Steuck even had a brief stint on the Des Moines playing at the U18 AAA level scoring 10 goals and 5 assists for a total of 15 points in 14 games. If an opposing team can come out of a game against the Birds with these three not scoring a single point, then you did your job. Fans can expect a higher scoring rate and lower goals allowed from this line as they are maturing into great hockey players for their last season.
The Birds’ first line is not only the line to watch. Forwards, Skyler Swearingen and Bryce Sullivan, both juniors, along with senior forward, Dylan Thong, will be strong contributors this season. Both Swearingen and Sullivan are looking to leave a bigger footprint on the team. By the end of last season, they both looked more threatening if they could keep up with how they were producing at the end of the season last year. Dylan Thong had a great year as well as he flew by his opponents netting a solid 11 points in 23 games this past season. These players will look to increase their offensive input heavily coming into next season.
The biggest need for improvement for Janesville needs to come from the defensive end. Watch for a major contribution from Lucas Young and Naveo Neal. Young is coming into his senior year and is looking to step up strong and lead the birds into the offensive zone. Neal will also look forward to playing in a new season, hopefully free from injury to allow himself to come to his full potential. Josh Hanekamp is coming into his senior year after his first full season of varsity and looking to become a bigger offensive threat and more defensively sound. With Kadin Garcia leaving the roster, it'll be interesting to see the battle of being the fourth defenseman.
All in all, Janesville is looking to take a major stride with that summer of development, coaching and a fresh start for this upcoming season. First puck drop of the season is November 29th, see you there!