A double header weekend was in store for the Widnes Wild as they travelled to Blackburn on Saturday and Sunday to face NIHL1 reigning champions Blackburn Hawks and 4th placed NIHL2 Blackburn Eagles.
NIHL Cup action saw the Wild face a Blackburn Hawks side that have been in outstanding form for most of the season and they were in no mood to take a night off on Saturday. The NIHL Cup games would offer Wild netminders Josh Benstead and Tom McDonald an opportunity to play, giving starting netminder Greg Ruxton time to rest. The game started at a quick pace with the Wild holding their own for the first five minutes, but it would be the Hawks that would break the deadlock, quickly followed up by a 2nd for the home side. Scott Mckenzie would get one back for the Wild but the first period would end 3-1 to the Moralee Conference Blackburn Hawks.
Five quick goals from the Hawks to start the 2nd period made it 8-1, Shaun Dippnall would get one back for the Wild but that is as good as it would get for the Halton based side as the Hawks would manage to claim four more goals to their tally to round off the scoring at 12-2. A tough game for the Wild but an opportunity to learn, develop and make improvements to their game.
On Sunday Widnes Wild travelled back up the M6 to Blackburn, this time to face a team in their own league, the Blackburn Eagles. The Wild would again be without starting netminder Greg Ruxton due to illness. Josh Benstead would get the start between the pipes for the Wild.
It would be Blackburn that would fly out of the gates rushing to a 3-0 lead. Tom Ratcliffe would get his first of the season since returning from America to get the Wild on the board before the end of the 1st period. The Eagles would restore their lead in the 2nd though, two quick goals making it 5-1 with a shell-shocked Wild calling a time-out to try and steady the ship. Whatever was said during the time out worked as goals from Scott Mckenzie, Shaun Dippnall and Kieran Strangeway would get the Wild back in the game with the 2nd period ending 5-4.
The 3rd period would ebb and flow with both sides having chances but again it was the Eagles finding the net twice in quick succession to make it 7-4 and all but kill off any comeback that the Wild had planned. That never say die attitude that Widnes Wild have would get a goal back through Geoff Wigglesworth but it was too little too late. A further goal from the Eagles would end the scoring at 8-5 and the tired looking Wild would leave Blackburn disappointed and pointless.
Assistant Coach Richard Charles had this to say about a disappointing weekend for his side;
‘A double header weekend is always going to be tough. Playing the Hawks on Saturday, a well-established Moralee Conference team really took its toll on the players going into Sunday’s game. We felt like we did well on Saturday and we need to take all the experience we can from these kind of games after all, that is the league we want to be in.’
The passionate Scotsman went on to say;
‘However Sunday was the priority and of course we are disappointed by the result. I am very proud of the way we play hockey and when stick to the plan, we are a real force. We need to refocus and get back to the way we all know we can play and not let other factors get in the way of the overall goal. We will put it behind us and move on to what is a massive game against Hull on Saturday. A big thanks to all of our travelling fans who came on both days to support us, the guys very much appreciate your time and efforts to get behind the team.’
Widnes Wild return home on Sunday to face the Blackburn Hawks. Face off is at the usual time of 17:30 with doors opening at 16:45. You can buy tickets on the door or alternatively through box office on 0151 420 7930. For any more information email firstname.lastname@example.org.