Sam Anderson in action for the Wild NIHL team during the 2019/20 season (Photo by Geoff White)
16 year old Sam Anderson made headlines at the start of the season when he joined the Academy Under 18s and also signed on two way deal with the NIHL team, making him the first Widnes junior to play for the Wild senior team. Talking about this he said:
“As a Widnes lad, being able to play for a Widnes team is an honour and I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to play the sport I love in my home town. I had wanted to do this ever since the Widnes rink first opened in 2012. It was a great first experience playing for both a senior Widnes team and a junior Widnes team for the very first time.”
The Wild Under18 team had originally been intended to play at Division 3 level but a lack of teams meant they were forced to play at Division 2 level instead against stronger opposition. Anderson commented:
“From playing from at Division A level in Manchester in previous seasons, I was a little uncertain on how things would pan out during the first season for the Under 18’s. Even though I feel like we had a rough start with players finding their feet and getting to grips with playing games, I am extremely proud of how the players improved and how they came together as a team.”
“The perseverance in these players was incredible and, at the end of the season, we managed not to come bottom of the league – which I think is a massive achievement for a first season and each of the players on the team should be immensely proud of themselves and each other.”
As well as playing for the Academy Under 18s, Anderson made 15 appearances for the Wild senior side over the course of the season in challenge, league and cup games.
“Playing for the Wild senior team in my first season of senior hockey was an amazing experience. It is definitely a big step up from junior hockey due to the strength, speed and awareness that is needed to compete against adults who have years of experience. Training and playing for the Wild has certainly improved and developed my game, as it teaches you physical and mental aspects that are just not present in junior hockey but are certainly needed in senior hockey. I could definitely feel the improvements when playing for the juniors as it shows when I feel that little bit stronger and faster than the other players on the ice.”
Asked about his highpoint of the season, Anderson commented:
“That was definitely scoring my first senior goal (away to Sheffield in January), it is a feeling that I will never forget – plus my first senior home goal at Widnes (at home the next night to the same opposition). Also, finishing as top points scorer in the league for the juniors is a great achievement for me.”
17 year old netminder Jake Lowndes had played with both Manchester and Deeside before opting to join the fledgling Wild Under 18s for his final junior season.
“It was a steep learning curve as we allowed too many shots on goal in the early games but, as the season went on, many of the players improved and some results came in.” I’m happy that the team didn’t finish bottom of the league and actually finished above two teams who have had U18’s for years”
“Training with the Wild senior team as well was good throughout the season, although I only made the bench twice, as the games were too close to change goalies – but taking powerful, accurate, shots from experienced players during sessions helped develop my reactions”
“The high points of the season for me have been: the Under 18’s first win (away at Deeside in December), beating last season’s league winners, Solihull, away from home and also being asked to play as backup for Leeds Chiefs in the National League, appearing on the bench five times in all.”