(Photo by Geoff White)
Saturday 25th January: Altrincham Aces 3 – YKK Widnes Wild 4 (NIHL Laidler Division)
Sunday 26th January: YKK Widnes Wild 3 – Altrincham Aces 6 (NIHL Laidler Division)
The YKK-sponsored Widnes Wild had a mixed weekend winning 3-4 away to Altrincham Aces on Saturday and losing 3 – 6 at home to the same opposition on Sunday at Planet Ice Widnes.
The Aces have been enjoying their best season for several years and are currently third in the Laidler Division table, having picked up wins over all the other top teams, and with Widnes still playing catch up in the league stakes, these two games were highly important for both sides.
The away game on Saturday started badly for the Wild with the Aces opening the scoring on 7 minutes and then doubling the advantage on 14 minutes, to take a 2 – 0 lead into the first break. Widnes upped their game in the second period and were rewarded with goals from Danny Bullock, Shaun Dippnall and Michal Novak to edge them into the lead on the half way mark. Altrincham equalised with 2 minutes left to play in the period and the game was very much on a knife-edge with just 20 minutes to play.
The Wild outshot the Aces by some two to one in the third period and were rewarded with what would turn out to be the winning goal from team captain Danny Bullock on 51 minutes. The Wild defence soaked up some late pressure from the hosts but held on to register a very important victory.
The home game on Sunday at Widnes was, for the most part, another very close run affair. It was a very physical encounter and the flow of play was regularly broken by niggling penalty calls. Widnes took the lead with a power play goal on 5 minutes from well taken strike by Shaun Dippnall but the Aces were on level terms just 4 minutes later, with a power play goal of their own. Altrincham took the lead on 12 minutes, slightly against the run of play, and the score remained 1 – 2 at the first period break.
The second period continued in the same vein as the first and was just as closely contested. Widnes scored the only goal of the period through Czech import Jakub Hajek on 29 minutes and the game stood tied at 2 – 2 with one period left to play.
The third period was highly eventful but, just at the time that Widnes needed to start powering ahead, things began to go against them. While pushing forward to take advantage of a power play, they were caught out at the back with a breakaway goal from the Aces, to put the visitors back into the lead on 42 minutes. Sean Dippnall equalised again for the Wild on 47 minutes but then two hammer-blow goals from the Aces put them firmly in the driving seat with just six minutes left to play. Try as they might, the Wild were unable to break down the stubborn Altrincham defence and a sixth goal for the Aces with just 90 seconds left in the game rounded off the scoring for the evening.
The MVP Awards were presented by Match Night official Scorer Gill Gillingham and went to netminder Paul Maudsley for the Aces and Shaun Dippnall for the Wild.
The weekend’s results mean that it is honours even between the Wild and the Aces in terms of league wins between the two sides for the season with two each for the series of four games. However, the Aces hold sway in terms of goals scored over the four meetings by 16 to 15, so were the two teams to finish level on points at the end of the season, the Aces would occupy the higher league position.
Widnes Wild are now fifth in the Laidler Division table and still have games in hand over all the other teams. They are next in action this Saturday 1st February when they travel away to play league leaders Hull Jets for the first time this season – 5.15 pm face off.
They are then at home on Sunday 2nd February when they take on local rivals Deeside Dragons at Planet Ice Widnes – face off 5.30 pm.