Richard Haggar (#19) celebrates the opening goal against Blackburn. (Photo by Geoff White)
The YKK sponsored Widnes Wild secured the NIHL North Cup with a sensational 3-2 win at home to Blackburn Hawks at Planet Ice Widnes on Saturday.
This game was particularly important, as a win for Blackburn would have meant that Widnes would not be able to catch them on points – even if they went on to win in Nottingham the following day – so it really was a “cup final” all in itself.
The game was evenly fought throughout and both teams had plenty of puck possession and chances to score. For such a high stakes game, it was actually played in very good spirit from start to finish with very few penalties being called – and most of the disciplinary minutes came from a notable incident in the first period.
With just 11 minutes gone and both sides still warming into the game, a fight broke out between the Wild’s Chris Gee and Blackburn captain and enforcer Reece Cairney-Witter. This was quite an intense encounter – even in ice hockey terms – and saw both players banished for the rest of the game.
Both players were given a 2+2+10 minute penalty for fighting. Cairney-Witter received a game penalty for resisting officials plus an extra 5 minutes plus game for a rarely applied Excessive Roughing Penalty. Gee got handed a game for resisting officials, plus an extra match penalty for a head-butt during the melee, which will probably lead to further disciplinary action from the EIHA.
Once order was restored, the game continued and Widnes took the lead with a superb goal from Richard Haggar in the 18th minute. The lead was short lived, however, as Blackburn equalised with 58 seconds left in the period to leave the score finely balanced at 1 goal each.
Widnes retook the lead just 2 minutes into the second period after Stuart Brittle won the face off in the Hawks defensive zone and Thomas Barry fired in a rocket shot from the blue line.
The Wild looked the better side in this second period and they went 3-1 up with a second goal of the game from Haggar with 36 seconds left on the clock.
Another goal for the Wild would probably have killed the game off but instead it was the Hawks who scored next – in the 50th minute to bring the score to 3-2 and set up a tense finale to decide who would win the NIHL North Cup.
Entering the last minute of the game, the score was still 3-2 to Widnes and Blackburn called a time out. They pulled their netminder in favour of an extra attacking player and proceeded to attack the Wild net with a 6 on 5 man advantage.
With just 8 seconds left, Widnes found themselves further disadvantaged as Mikey Gilbert was called for a rather soft slashing infringement at the face off in the Wild defensive zone. This meant that Widnes had to defend against a 6 on 4 onslaught for the final few seconds, which they successfully managed to do and held on for the 3-2 win.
- Match Details:
- Period Scores: 1-1, 2-0, 0-1
- Shots on Goal: Widnes 34 – Blackburn 36 (13-17, 10-10, 11-9)
- Penalties In Minutes: Widnes 67 – Blackburn 63
- Match Officials: Chris Wells (Referee), Faye Andrews & Thomas Horner (Linesmen)
- Match Report by Paul Breeze
- Photos by Geoff White