The Wild team with mascots after the narrow 2-3 defeat at home to Nottingham Lions on Sunday evening (Photo by Geoff White)
Saturday 28th September: Sheffield Senators 6 – YKK Widnes Wild 7 (Laidler Division)
Sunday 28th September: YKK Widnes Wild 2 – Nottingham Lions 3 (Midland Cup)
The YKK-sponsored Widnes Wild had a mixed weekend, winning 6 – 7 away at Sheffield Senators on Saturday and then losing 2 – 3 to Nottingham Lions at Planet Ice Widnes on Sunday.
The Wild travelled to Sheffield with a severely depleted team due to injuries and player unavailability. Head Coach Mike Clancy had to juggle the lines around, Lee Kemp was made captain for the day and defenceman Dan Bracegirdle played as a makeshift forward.
As with the previous meeting between the two teams in Widnes, the Senators took an early lead and were leading 2 – 0 at the end of the first period. Two quick goals for the Wild – from Mikey Gilbert and Ryan Kemp – within a minute of the re-start put Widnes level, but three more goals for the home side saw them leading 5 – 2 heading towards the second break. However, a goal from Matt Tarpey with just seconds to go in the period gave the Wild hope, although the three-goal cushion was restored with a goal just 45 seconds into the third period for the Senators.
The Wild had most of the possession but were struggling to cope with the re-jigged playing lines for this game. But everything began to click into place in the third period and goals from Jakub Hajek, Gilbert and Tarpey levelled the score at 6 – 6 after three periods.
As with the home game against Sheffield two weeks ago, the game went into overtime but, this time, matters were settled in Widnes’s favour with a “golden goal” from Mikey Gilbert just 45 seconds into overtime – his third goal of the game.
The game on Sunday saw Nottingham Lions of the Moralee Division arrive for a game in the NIHL Midland Cup. While Nottingham have been the “whipping boys” in the higher division for the past couple of seasons, the gap between the two leagues is very wide and this game probably represented their best opportunity to pick up a rare away win, while the Wild were harbouring hopes of notching up their first higher league scalp in a competitive game.
The game was played at a furious pace throughout and was entertaining from start to finish. Nottingham opened the scoring after just two minutes but Widnes equalised with a goal from captain Danny Bullock just four minutes later. 90 seconds after that, the Wild went 2 – 1 up after a fine strike by Mikey Gilbert but a second goal for the Lions came on 17 minutes and the score was level at 2 – 2 at the first period break. Somewhat incredibly, the score was still level at 2 – 2 at the second period break and a deciding third period was greatly anticipated.
Despite the intensity of this game and the close score, it was played in very good spirits throughout, with the Wild only picking up 4 minutes of penalties – these for too many men on the ice – and 3 of the Lions’ penalties coming for delaying the game. The third period saw the Wild outshoot Nottingham by 18 – 2 but, while they were besieging the Lions’ goal, they were caught out by a break-away and what would turn out to be the decisive strike was fired in by Nottingham on 47 minutes.
As the clock ticked down, the atmosphere around the packed rink intensified. A couple of late penalties gave the Wild a 5 on 3 advantage heading into the last minute of the game. The Wild piled pressure on the Nottingham net but were unable to make a breakthrough. Nottingham called a time out with just 27 seconds to play, which broke the Wild’s momentum and then Widnes pulled their netminder to allow an extra attacker onto the ice.
When the Wild called a time out with just 9 seconds left to play, the tension was almost unbearable. They threw everything forward in a last ditch attack but a Nottingham player managed to snatch the puck and relieve the pressure. He fired the puck into the empty Widnes net but the buzzer sounded just before it crossed the line and the score remained 2 – 3 at the end of a thoroughly entertaining game – if somewhat frustrating for the Wild camp.
The Wild out-shot Nottingham 48 – 15 overall and, not surprisingly, Lions’ netminder Thomas Hovell picked up the MVP award, while the accolade for the Wild went to Mikey Gilbert.
The Wild are next in action this Saturday 5th October when they make the relatively short trip to Altrincham to take on the Aces in the Laidler Division – face off 7.00 p.m. They are then at home to Solihull Barons the following Sunday 13th October in the Midland Cup at Planet Ice Widnes – 5.30pm face off.
Wild Women’s Team
The Widnes Wild Women’s Team are in action this Sunday, 6th October, when they take on the Sheffield Shadows in their first Women’s Division One North League Game of the Season.
The Wild Women have had a good pre-season campaign, winning once and drawing once against likely championship contenders Solway Sharks Ladies and will be keen to get their League season proper off to a flying start. The women’s game on Sunday faces off at 5.30 p.m. and admission is just £1.
As part of a new commercial initiative for this season, the match is being sponsored by Unison Liverpool John Moores University and also by a group of fans – Andrew Shutt, Paul Boardman, Martin Naden and Sam Ellison – who pitched in together as part of a fundraising appeal on social media.
There are still several match sponsorships available for the new season – and a few individual player sponsorships as well. Packages start from £50 and can be tailored to suit every budget and pocket. More information is available from Sponsorship Co-ordinator Kat Garner at firstname.lastname@example.org.