Wild made a second trip to Coventry inside a fortnight.
Huge tailbacks on the M6 meant that the squad struggled to assemble and was without no fewer than nine squad members. Again defencemen were at a premium. A small but enthusiastic group of Wild fans greeted the team onto the ice in their black away strip. The big news was that Blaze were without their giant defenceman James Pease, who had signed to play English Premier hockey with Telford.
Coventry opened at a furious pace with Philip Pollok and Josh Nicklin very prominent. Widnes stood firm but some desperate defence was needed. On the occasions when Wild broke out of defence some good flowing hockey from Caunce, Supa and Simister kept Blaze on their toes. The first breakthrough came in the 15th minute. Coventry broke out quickly and Philip Pollok flashed a wrist shot high into the net past Steve Gilmartin. Widnes responded quickly and good saves were needed to prevent an equaliser. A Widnes defensive error behind the net, led to a second Blaze goal when Adam Alfody took a short pass from behind the net to fire home from close range. Josh Nicklin was the next to find the net, firing home from distance, through a crowd of players. Rhys Gillatt made it 4-0 when he fired low and hard into the bottom left corner. After a good grafting start, Wild ended the period, struggling to cope with the movement and speed of the Coventry forwards who had outshot the visitors 18-9. Big defenceman Callum Ruddick, took an awkward hit on the boards and was unable to continue for Wild.
The second period began with Widnes attacking, two shots hitting the pipework in the 25th and 26th minutes. Coventry broke clear to score two almost identical goals within a minute. Two good blocker saves by Gilmartin led to rebounds and these were forced home by Sam Hammerton, a new signing from Solihull, and Philip Pollok. Three minutes later saw a seventh Blaze goal when Charlie Hammerton cut in from the right to fire a blistering angled shot past Steve Gilmartin. At the end of the period a sustained Widnes attack saw Ben Simister hit the post with the netminder beaten. Chris Gill replaced Connor Ranby in the Coventry goal in the 39th minute.The final minute of the period saw Widnes pulling a goal back just five seconds into a powerplay, with Filip Supa finishing well from a Bobby Caunce pass.
Within two minutes of the re-start Widnes scored a second , and it was a brace for Supa, who latched onto a phenomenal defence-splitting pass by Bobby Caunce, with the goal also assisted by Dan Etherington. Dan Bracegirdle had taken a puck to the face and needed an ice pack to keep the swelling down. Two brilliant Gilmartin saves in the 46th and 47th minutes were matched at the other end by a series of good saves as Widnes looked to add to their total. As both sides tired,mistakes became apparent and some frustration crept in. This was certainly a game of two halves with Coventry comfortably controlling the first and Widnes taking the second with two unanswered goals. With so many key defencemen missing Widnes struggled to take control in their own end but looked threatening each time they attacked.
Filip Supa took the MVP for Widnes and his skill and vision troubled Coventry throughout.
Wild coach Mark Gillingham was pleased with the way his side finished the game.‘The two halves of the game were just like chalk and cheese for us. For the first thirty minutes, we really struggled mentally and couldn’t get anything going at all. That might have been something to do with having to shuffle lines around with a lot of absences, but the second half hour was a completely different story. We managed to cut out all the silly mistakes, played a much more simple game and started working just that little bit harder. After the game, we talked about the need for consistency, and having a more ruthless, ‘need to win’ attitude whenever we play, so we’ll be looking to carry the momentum of the second half of the game over into the game against Nottingham at home next week.’
On Sunday, Nottingham Lions, the current league champions visit the Widnes rink for what promises to be an exciting game. Wild will be able to ice a much stronger squad for the game which faces off at 6.15. Match tickets will be available at the door. Some excellent season ticket deals are available – with full details available from the box office.