The YKK sponsored Widnes Wild got the new year off to a flying start by extending their Laidler Division winning run to an incredible 15 games in a row with a 1-9 win away to the Blackburn Hawks development team on Sunday.
With the league’s second placed team Sheffield Senators using up their game in hand over Widnes and dropping a point in an overtime loss at home to Coventry Blaze, this win leaves the Wild 8 points clear at the top of the Laidler Division table with 12 games left to play of the regular season.
Widnes had beaten the Hawks 2 team 22-2 at home earlier in the season but a visit to Blackburn Arena with its larger ice pad is always a difficult proposition and any sort of win in East Lancashire should always be viewed as a success.
The Wild were on top of things throughout and out-shot Blackburn by 68 to 17 overall. They took the lead just 49 seconds into the game with a goal from Jakub Hajek and further goals from Mikey Gilbert, Simon Offord, Stuart Brittle and player coach Ollie Barron before the end of the first period put the game way past the reach of the plucky Hawks youngsters at 0-5 after just 20 minutes’ play.
The second period saw the Wild mostly camped in the Blackburn end although Team GB Women’s netminder Samantha Bolwell did well to keep out 24 of the 25 shots that were fired at her – the only breach coming in the 22nd minute from Shaun Dippnall to make the score 0-6 to Widnes. At the other end, the Hawks 2 only managed one single shot during the whole 20 minute period against Luke Wilson Owen who had joined Widnes from Blackburn during the summer.
Three more goals in the third period – from Barron, Brittle and Hajek – gave the Wild a 0-9 lead before Blackburn’s Sam Plant – a former player with the Widnes based Riverside Raiders recreational team – scored a consolation goal for the home side on a delayed penalty call.
After the game, Widnes player coach Ollie Barron said:
“It was good to get back into game action this weekend, after the festive break. I felt we played well in the first period taking it 5-0, the second and third we had equally as many shots but Sam Bolwell played her part in goal to make some fantastic saves. I felt the game was very scrappy and didn’t have much flow, however the main objective was to get the 2 points.”
“We now have to prepare for a huge weekend, facing a 2 good teams in Coventry and Sheffield. Blaze have had some very impressive results, and each time we have played them, I have been impressed with their work rate. On Sunday we are back on home ice to face Sheffield, currently in second place, which will be a fast paced physical game. I hope to see as many fans as possible cheering us on this weekend both in Coventry and Widnes. Thanks for your continued support.”
The Wild travel to Coventry to play the NIHL Blaze this Saturday 12th January and are then at home for the first time in 2019 on Sunday 13th when they take on Sheffield Senators at Planet Ice Widnes. Face off is at 5.30pm and doors open at 4.45.
Sunday 6th January 2019 – Laidler Division
Blackburn Hawks 2 1 – Widnes Wild 9
Period Scores: 0-5, 0-1, 1-3
Shots on Goal: Blackburn 17 – Widnes 68 (7-21, 1-25, 9-22)
Penalties In Minutes: Blackburn 2 – Widnes 2
Widnes Scoring: Jakub Hajek 2+3, Ollie Barron 2+3, Stuart Brittle 2+2, Simon Offord 1+2, Shaun Dippnall 1+1, Mikey Gilbert 1+0, Michal Novak 0+2, Lee Kemp 0+2
Match Officials: Emmerson – Referee, Smith / Hussain – Linesmen
MVPs: Blackburn – Josh Birtwistle / Widnes – Shaun Dippnall
Report by Paul Breeze – www.icehockeyreview.co.uk
Photos by Geoff White – www.gw-images.com