With the NHL taking the year off, it has become increasingly hard for me to get my hockey fix week in and week out. With the Badger men's and women's teams both out of town this past weekend and this coming weekend, the chances of catching a game were bleak. Luckily, my prayers were answered last weekend, and not only did I get to see some hockey, but I was also reminded of the valuable lesson of why high school sports are so great.
You see, 25 years after the original, the Janesville Bluebirds are skating their own \Miracle on Ice.""
I have to preface the rest of this column with a few background details. First, there has been such little interest in hockey in Janesville that the two high schools do not have enough players to each have a team, they have to combine into one. The only time the Bluebirds have advanced to the state level was in 1994. And I, after Saturday night's game, have now been to two games.
Nonetheless, the team's miracle quest was enough to get me out to Madison Ice Arena last Saturday evening where they were to take on Middleton, with the winner advancing to State.
The Bluebirds had no business still being in the tournament. They opened the season 1-5-2, but managed to go 8-4 to close out the year, earning them the eighth and lowest seed in their regional after they won a play-in game.
As the lowest seed, their first game came against Madison Memorial, a team that they had beaten once in the history of their program, and a team that outscored them 13-0 in two games during the regular season. The Bluebirds never trailed in the game, though it took two overtimes to win 3-2. That, in itself, would have been the perfect ending to a season, but they advanced to take on Beloit, a rival from just down the road.
In Beloit, the Bluebirds won their second straight game with the same result, 3-2 in overtime. Now you see why I had to see them in the sectional final Saturday night where they played Middleton.
I sat through a first period, and Middleton scored 35 seconds into the game and again shorthanded with two seconds left on the clock. With matching power play goals by both teams in between, Middleton had a 3-1 lead which they held through the second period.
Now I was asking myself why I even showed up.
To make matters worse, the referees disallowed an obvious goal in the third period because they didn't see it rocket into, then out of, the net.
But things started to look up when Janesville was awarded a penalty shot, which they capitalized on. Less than a minute later they tied it up. For the third straight time, the game went to overtime-and coincidentally, the third time rendered the same outcome.
Midway through overtime, Middleton skated in on a break, but Bluebird goalie Max Giese denied the goal. The Bluebirds then pushed it up the other way and went top shelf to win the game. The players spilled over the bench in Miracle-type fashion.
That is what sports are about, and that is why high school sports may be the greatest kind. It's about David defeating Goliath-or in this case, a number of Goliaths. It's about not having to worry about overpaid players, lockouts, steroids or anything else. It's about taking pride in where you come from-and I can probably count the number of times I've proudly said that I'm from Janesville on one hand-but Saturday night was one of them.
Good luck to the Bluebirds today as they make their second ever trip to the state tournament.
Eric Schmoldt is a junior majoring in history. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org,