The Janesville Bluebirds accomplished a major upset against the Big Eight titans, the Verona Wildcats. Janesville was finally able to break two Verona streaks. The last time Janesville was able to beat Verona was January 31st, 2017, with an OT winner scored by Ian Perkins' older brother Tyler Perkins. The other streak broken was Verona’s unbeaten conference streak. Verona's last conference loss was against Madison West on February 2nd, 2019, 7-2. Janesville came into this game on a five-game tear. Verona entered this game with a two-game win streak beating Eau Claire Memorial and Wausau West.
Five minutes and thirty-eight seconds into the game, Janesville was the first to get on the board. Ben Schaffner intercepts a pass which leads to Tyler Steuck's stick for a breakaway. Tyler Steuck sneaks it just under the blocker of Blake Craven for a 1-0 lead. Just under three minutes later Tyler Steuck strikes again. The brothers link up for this one. Carter Steuck takes a shot from the point, which is blocked, and once again lands right in front of Tyler Steuck who goes across Craven for a 2-0 lead. A penalty by Verona gave Janesville another opportunity to extend their lead. A turnover in the corner gave Ben Schaffner an easy cross-crease pass to Ian Perkins. The Bluebirds come out of the period feeling strong with a 3-0 lead heading into the second.
The second period rolled around and Janesville kept charging on for their fourth consecutive goal. Jake Schaffner uses his elite hockey IQ to read a pass which leads to a cross-crease pass for Tyler Steuck to score. This fourth goal of the game for the bluebirds gives Tyler Steuck a hattrick and it only took 23 minutes. Tyler Steuck wasn’t done there. He netted his fourth goal of the night. Steuck took advantage of a turnover on the blue line, giving him a breakaway, which he put away blocker side. 5-0 Janesville with nine minutes and thirty-one seconds left in the second. Verona, hoping to break the goal drought, scores with 7:10 left in the second. Charlie Scadden forces a mistake while Janesville was on the penalty kill. Reece Cordray steals and passes the puck to the top of the circle for a perfectly executed one-timer by Jack Marske, 5-1.
Janesville was still weary of Verona’s goal-scoring and went out to block many shots to keep the lead. Tyler Steuck scored again for his fifth of the night on the power play. He skated in the zone and took both the defender and goalie by surprise as he used his quick release to snipe one into the top right corner. Verona tried to mount a late comeback with two back-to-back goals. Charlie Mcginnis finds Boden Brotzman streaking towards the net and slots it away. Brotzman found himself with another opportunity after making a move on Janesville's defenseman and went across Campbell to make it a 6-3 game. Janesville would seal their victory with two empty net goals from Perkins, and Schaffner.
Verona played a hard and physical game as they tried to wear down Janesville. Janesville would not budge as they took the hits, laid a few themselves, and blocked many shots. Janesville may have gotten only twenty-five shots but most of those were high-opportunity scoring chances. Verona hounded the shots on the net, trying to squeak a few by Campbell from sharp angles. Campbell was also forced to make many cross-crease desperation saves. My first star of the game has to go to Tyler Steuck. Scoring five goals against Verona is a rare occurrence. The second star has to go to Jaicy Campbell. Campbell faced fifty shots tonight and stopped forty-seven of them for a .940 save percentage. The third star is Boden Brotzman, who tried to spark Verona for a late comeback.
I was able to talk to the head coach of the Janesville Bluebirds, Nick English, and he had nothing but positive things to say about his team. When I asked how he felt about the win against the WIPH third-ranked team he said, “It feels great! Verona is an unbelievably talented team”. He continued, “Our boys stuck to the game plan and stuck together after burying a couple of quick ones." That wasn’t the only praise he had for his team.
“We did a pretty good job keeping the play in front of us. We protected the house greatly, and I'm proud of these boys tonight.”
I questioned him on how he felt about Campbell's performance tonight:
“He played out of his mind tonight, that’s a senior goaltender that was voted captain, and showed he deserved that role."
I also caught up with the five-goal scorer, Tyler Steuck. He said, “I've never felt better,” after being asked how this scoreline made him feel. He pointed out that Janesville has struggled to beat Verona for a couple of years now. He gave credit to his teammates for their willingness to do whatever it took to win tonight:
“Verona is a great team, but we have a great group of guys that stuck to the game plan.”
I questioned how he felt on a rarely achieved five-goal game against Verona and he said it was all his teammates:
“I have to give all the credit to my teammates. Especially my linemates, Jake and Ben Schaffner.” He continued, “I think they are some of the best players in the state. We have great chemistry and that’s why we were successful”.
When asked how he felt about Campbell's performance he said, “He’s insane, getting some confidence in him and when he’s on he can be pretty hard to beat.”
Lastly, I caught up with Jaicy Campbell. He said, “It’s a great win for the team, really got the boys excited and confident for Middelton next week.” I asked if he thinks he can keep his great play going.
“I just have to keep the momentum going, keep my head in the game. Knowing the boys have my back gives me more confidence”.
He said he loved his team's defensive performance in front of him.
“They were really solid, we struggled at the beginning of the year. As of late, we have been able to hunker down. No doubt beating the 3rd ranked team in the state will boost our confidence in our own zone.”
Lastly, I asked what he was expecting coming into tonight and he said, “Coming into this game on a five-game win streak we knew we could win this game, and our effort proved it as we laid it all out on the ice tonight.”
Verona’s next game is this Saturday against Madison West in Verona at 7:00 pm. Verona is looking to bounce back as West will be looking to capitalize on Verona's recent loss. Verona can come into this game still confident as they beat West 5-1 earlier in the season. Janesville will be looking to continue their streak to six wins and seek revenge against Middleton. Janesville and Middelton have already met this year with Middelton coming out on top 7-1. This game will be held at the Janesville Ice Arena, on Tuesday the 10th at 7:00 pm.