The RTL-sponsored Widnes Wild had a weekend to forget as they suffered back to back defeats – 3-2 away to Sheffield Senators on Saturday and then 4-6 at home to Hull Jets at Silver Blades Widnes on Sunday.
Going into the weekend, the team knew that two wins would see them move to the top of the Laidler Division and go clear of Altrincham Aces over whom they had a game in hand. As it turned out, the Aces lost their game at the weekend too – at home to Sheffield on Sunday night – so the top two positions actually remain unchanged – with a point still between the two north west rivals, although the Wild have now lost their game in hand advantage.
The game on Saturday at Sheffield saw a very subdued performance by the Wild team. It took them a while to get going and two goals for the hosts – in the 8th and 9th minutes – saw the Senators take a 2 goal lead into the first break.
The Wild made a better showing in the second period and pulled a goal back just 30 seconds after the restart through Nick Manning. However, despite matching the Senators for effort and possession, they were unable to build on that breakthrough and the match played on goal-less for the next 24 minutes. The next goal, when it came, did go to Widnes – with Stuart Brittle equalising for the Wild 4 minutes into the third period.
The Wild upped their game considerably during this final third and out-shot their hosts by 16 to 5 but, try as they might, they were unable to breach the stubborn Senators defence.
The game winning goal for the Senators came with just 1.05 left on the clock and the Wild were left with plenty of things to think about ahead of the game against Hull the night after.
Sunday night’s game against Hull was a very close fought and entertaining affair for the neutral fan but an absolute nightmare for any Widnes supporter.
The Jets arrived occupying 4th place in the Laidler table on the back of a 7-game winning streak – albeit against teams from the bottom half of the table. They also boasted the leading points scorer in the division in the shape of Richard Haggar, who had also topped last season’s standings.
Anybody hoping for an instant backlash after the previous day’s defeat will have been disappointed as the Wild struggled to break down an incredibly well-organised Hull team and, once again, went in two goals behind at the first break.
It wasn’t a bad performance as such by the Widnes team but they were matched play-for-play by the visitors and Hull made the most of their chances in front of goal whereas the Wild didn’t.
The situation got even worse early in the second period when Widnes went 0-3 down to a powerplay goal while Tom Ratcliffe was sitting out a cross-checking penalty.
Then, just on the halfway stage of the game, something seemed to click and the Wild suddenly found their form in front of goal. In an incredible 8 minute session between 30.58 and 38.45 they went from being 0-3 down to leading the game 4-3, courtesy of goals by player coach Ollie Barron, Kyle Haslam, Tom Ratcliffe and then Barron again. and things finally began to look good for Widnes heading into the third period.
There was a bit of an altercation between the two groups of players as they left the ice for the period break and this led to Wild’s Mikey Gilbert having to sit out the first two minutes after the restart on a roughing call. 90 seconds into the penalty, the Jets equalised with a powerplay goal.
A very tense phase ensued with both sides pushing for a winner. With 10 minutes to play, the Wild thought that they should been awarded a penalty shot when Tom Ratcliffe was brought down while bearing in on goal, however, not only was the penalty shot not awarded, but no penalties were called at all on the Hull defence for the trip or other infringements during the subsequent pushing and shoving.
As time ticked away, the Wild pushed forward trying to make a late breakthrough but this meant that they were vulnerable at the back. Another powerplay goal for the Jets with just 3 minutes left to play put them back into the lead and, when the Wild pulled netminder Phil Crosby for the last 30 seconds of the game, it was almost inevitable that Hull would round off the scoring with an “empty net goal” – which they did with 8 seconds left on the clock.
Afterwards, Wild player coach Ollie Barron said:
“It was a very disappointing weekend overall and to drop 4 points this weekend against Sheffield and Hull was disappointing.”
“We knew we faced a difficult challenge with two tricky fixtures and I was disappointed we didn’t play for a full 60 minutes in Sheffield – something I have made clear for a number of weeks. The 2nd and 3rd periods in Sheffield were improved, but the overall performance was nowhere near the level I expect from the team.”
“In Sunday’s game against Hull, I felt we started the game at a much higher tempo. I thought we actually were playing quite well despite finding ourselves 3-0 down. To fight back and get ourselves ahead to 4-3 was promising but running into penalty trouble killed us and saw Hull take the two points.”
“We have next weekend off to regroup before 3 vital fixtures before the Christmas break. There’s a lot of hockey left to be played yet, with still over half the season remaining, we remain focussed and will get ready to go again.”
The Wild have no game this weekend and are back in action on Sunday 10th December when they face Bradford Bulldogs at Silver Blades Widnes.
The home game against Bradford will be the occasion for the club’s annual “Teddy Toss” where fans are asked to bring along soft toys to be donated to local charities and good causes in the run up to the festive period. At a pre-determined point in the game, a signal will go off and everybody will throw their soft toys onto the ice for collection – so all toys need to be protectively wrapped so that they don’t get water damaged.
An announcement will be made nearer the time as to which good causes will benefit from the donations and also at what point of the game the teddies will be tossed.
The Widnes Wild women’s team will be in action this Sunday 3rd December as they play Milton Keynes Falcons in the Women’s Premier League at Silver Blades Widnes – 5.30pm face off.
The Falcons are third in the WPL table having won 2 of their first 4 league games while the Wild women have yet to notch up a point from their two games to date.
Saturday 25th November 2017 – Laidler Division
Sheffield Senators 3 – Widnes Wild 2
Period Scores: 2-0, 0-1, 1-1
Shots on Goal: Sheffield 31 – Widnes 42 (11-9, 15-17, 5-16)
Penalties In Minutes: Widnes 18 – Hull 10
Widnes Scoring: Stuart Brittle & Nick Manning 1+0, Simon Offord 0+2, Ollie Barron & Pavel Vales 0+1
Match Officials: Oliver Truswell – Referee, Callum Neenan – Linesman, Elliot Marshall- Linesman
Sunday 26th November 2017 – Laidler Division
Widnes Wild 4 – Hull Jets 6
Period Scores: 0-2, 4-1, 0-3
Shots on Goal: Widnes 37 – Hull 37 (10-13, 16-16, 11-7)
Penalties In Minutes: Widnes 18 – Hull 10
Widnes Scoring: Ollie Barron 2+0, Kyle Haslam & Tom Ratcliffe both 1+1, Simon Offord 0+2, Stuart Brittle & Shaun Dippnall 0+1
Match Officials: Andrew Miller – Referee, Callum Neenan – Linesman, Emma Sanders – Linesman