The RTL-sponsored Widnes Wild had a mixed weekend, suffering a galling 6-3 defeat away at Telford Tigers on Saturday before trouncing local rivals Deeside Dragons 20-1 at home at Silver Blades Widnes on Sunday.
The game at Telford on Saturday really was the proverbial “game of two halves” with the Wild completely dominating the first half but, sadly, being overcome in the second.
Despite playing the league leaders, Widnes were completely on top of things in the first period. Danny Bullock fired them into the lead in the 7th minute and then Stuart Brittle doubled the advantage some 5 minutes later. They actually had so many chances that didn’t get put away that they could easily have been leading by 6 or 7 at the first break but, in the end, had to be content with just 2. The second period started as the first had finished and Wild player coach Ollie Barron gave Widnes a 0-3 lead after 26 minutes.
That goal prompted a time-out from the Telford bench and, while one can only speculate as to what was discussed, it can hardly be pure coincidence that, straight at the restart Stuart Brittle was drawn into an altercation at the face off that eventually saw both him and Barron – the two most influential players on the Wild team in the game thus far – both banished to the penalty box – Brittle with 2+2 minutes for fighting and Barron with a 10 minute misconduct penalty.
In the immediate aftermath of this, two more Wild players picked up minor penalties and the Tigers scored two goals – on 30 minutes exactly and 31.09 – to put them right back into the game. The score remained 2-3 at the end of the second period but the Wild team must have felt as if they had been mugged and there was still a lot to do in the third period.
The last 20 minutes saw Widnes outshoot the Tigers by 2 to 1 but whatever they tried, they couldn’t get past the Telford netminder. At the other end, Telford had 8 shots on goal, of which three beat Matt Croyle, giving the league leaders a 5-3 advantage with 10 minutes left to play.
With one minute left on the clock and the score still at a tantalisingly close 5-3, Widnes pulled netminder Croyle in favour of an extra attacker. Unfortunately, this eventually led to the “almost inevitable” Empty Net Goal with just 12 seconds left to play and the Wild slumped to a disappointing 6-3 defeat.
The home game on Sunday against the Dragons development team was an ideal opportunity to bounce back and the visit of one of the league’s most porous defences provided an entertaining match with plenty of goals and other incidents.
It actually took Widnes almost 7 minutes to score opening goal – a powerplay goal, from Pavel Vales while the Dragons were sitting out one of their numerous penalties. A second goal followed from Shaun Dippnall 48 seconds later and another from Simon Offord 67 seconds after that and by the time that Mikey Gilbert scored the Wild’s fourth – another powerplay goal – after 9 minutes, the game was already pretty much over as a contest.
Valiantly though they battled, the Dragons didn’t manage to register a single shot on goal in the whole of the first period, – which must be some sort of record in itself, certainly in games seen at Widnes, if not further afield – and by the first break, the Wild were already leading by 9 goals to 0.
The second period was a somewhat closer affair – in so much as the visitors achieved 11 shots on goal, compared to the Wild’s 19 – and former Widnes player Michal Fico scored their only goal of the game at 38.14. Before that, the Wild had further extended their lead by 4 more goals and the score at the end of the second period was 13-1.
There was a delay to the start of the third period as the resurfacing of the ice during the break was interrupted due to a rogue puck getting jammed up in the “zamboni” machine but once play was resumed, the almost one-way-traffic towards the Dragons goal continued.
Mikey Gilbert scored his hat-trick goal within a minute of the restart and Geoff Wigglesworth notched up his first goal since returning to the club just 4 minutes later. This provoked an incident between Wild defenceman Dan Bracegirdle and Dragons’ Fico who both received 2 minute penalties for roughing and Fico was then awarded a 10 minute misconduct penalty for “incitement” after he made comments and gestures on his way into the penalty box.
Five more goals followed for the Wild in the last 10 minutes of the game – including a 4th and 5th for Mikey Gilbert and a third for Mike Mawer, giving the popular defenceman a rare hat trick.
The closing minutes of the game were livened up somewhat by a fight between Wild’s Wigglesworth and Dragons’ Dan Meadows which saw both being given 2+2 for fighting plus an extra 2 minutes for Meadows for the initial trip that sparked the incident. Mike Mawer was also banished in the same incident picking up 2+2 for fighting and a game misconduct for being the “third man in” on the altercation.
The Wild were then awarded a penalty shot with just 29 seconds left on the clock. Ken Armstrong’s fine strike beat the Deeside netminder but glanced off the inside of the post and agonisingly came out again, leaving the final score at 20-1 to Widnes.
The weekend games saw Sutton Sting move to the top of the Laidler Division table with 44 points from 27 games. Telford are second with 42 points and Altrincham Aces 3rd with 40 points. Widnes are currently in 4th place with 38 points from 27 games and, with games in hand over both the Aces and the Tigers and matches still to come against both those sides, there is still plenty to play for in the final quarter of the season.
The Wild have back to back games against Coventry Blaze next weekend – playing away on Saturday and then at home on Sunday at Silver Blades Widnes. The home game faces off at 5.30pm and doors open at 4.45.
Following on from the Wild v Coventry game on Sunday, the Halton Huskies recreational team have a home game against the Whitley Bay Sharks. Face off is at 8.30pm and admission is free.
Saturday 10th February 2018 – Laidler Division
Telford Tigers 6 – Widnes Wild 3
Period Scores: 0-2, 2-1, 3-0
Shots on Goal: Telford 30 – Widnes 46 (10-14, 11-16, 8-16)
Penalties In Minutes: Telford 44 – Widnes 28
Widnes Scoring: Stuart Brittle 1+1, Ollie Barron & Danny Bullock 1+0, Nick Manning 0+1
Match Officials: Roy Hamilton – Referee, Alice Stanley – Linesman, Krzysztof Malek – Linesman
Sunday 11th February 2018 – Laidler Division
Widnes Wild 20 – Deeside Dragons N2 1
Period Scores: 9-0, 4-1, 7-0
Shots on Goal: Widnes 79 – Deeside 22 (33-0 19-11, 27-11)
Penalties In Minutes: Widnes 34 – Deeside 32
Widnes Scoring: Mikey Gilbert 5+1, Danny Bullock 3+2, Mike Mawer 3+1, Shaun Dippnall 2+3, Nick Manning 1+5, Pavel Vales & Ollie Barron 1+3, Simon Offord 1+1, Ken Armstrong & Lee Kemp 1+0, Stuart Brittle 0+3, Andrew Turner 0+2, Dan Bracegirdle, Bez Hughes, Kyle Haslam, Tom Jackson all 0+1
Match Officials: Adam Hands – Referee, Richard Wang – Linesman, Tom Walker – Linesman