Match Report by Liam Knowles
The Widnes Wild Academy Under 13’s faced Blackburn Hawks on home ice for the second time this season, at Planet Ice Widnes on Saturday.
The wild team had lost by big margins to the much larger Blackburn team in both of their previous meetings this season. With a short bench of just 9 skaters, and only 1 regular defenceman, for the match, the Wild team knew they had their work cut out against a Blackburn team with title hopes.
The Wild team got off to a slow start, conceding 2 goals in the first 4 minutes. At this point in the game the Wild could be seen to double up on effort, with forwards Nick Highcock (16) and Cai Vernett-Showers (9), showing their ability to create plays and move the puck through the neutral zone. The Hawks, however, remained the dominant team for the rest of the period, scoring a further 2 goals. This was despite the bravery of Thomas Warburton (14) and Harry Gilbert (40), who could both be seen throwing their bodies in front of the Hawks shots.
The second period was much better from a WIld perspective. Blackburn opened up the scoring at 21:33, but the Wild team soon shot back through Adam Vigh-Yecsey (19) at 22:54 after Aiden Lamb (11) gave him the puck in a prime scoring position. It was just 5 seconds later that Adam Vigh-Yecsey found the net again, this time with a solo effort after he won the center ice face off.
The Wild team stood strong through the rest of the second period, conceding only one more goal. With the teams scoring 2 a piece in the second period, the score was 2-6 when the buzzer sounded. Following an ice cut during the second period break, the Wild team continued to show their determination to take on the bigger team. Unfortunately for the Wild it wasn’t to be. Despite having 5 minutes of 5 on 4 power-play, and 1 minute of 5 on 3, the Wild where unable to breakdown the Hawks defence and find the net.
Like the first, the third period was Blackburns, scoring three unanswered goals. Although the 2-10 score line shows the disparity in the teams on the day, to anybody who has followed the Wilds first season it shows something more. When the Wild have met the Hawks previously this season, they have posted losses of 2-14 at home and 13-1 away. Both of these results would have been much worse had the league not introduced the 12 goal “Mercy rule” earlier in the season.
For the Wild to keep the score below the 12 goal threshold would have been an achievement on it’s own, however they were able to do it with a bench of just 9 skaters, against 16 opponents. This large improvement over the season, really highlights the progress Mikey Gilbert and his coaching team have made with the Wild academy.
This match report wouldn’t be complete without mentioning some of the players who worked so hard, despite all the odds being against them. Thomas Warburton, Harry Gilbert (Both playing out of position in defence) and Harrison Lightfoot, showed how hard they are willing to work, skating with just one and a half lines for all three periods of the game. Aidan Lamb, Alexandra (Sandy) Vigh-Yecsey, and Cai Vernett-Showers showed their ability to break up plays and their ‘never give up’ attitude for the entire game.
The team’s leading play-maker Nick Highcock had what could be his best game of the season, keeping pressure on the Hawks defence and making sure he was back to support his own defence when the puck moved back down the ice.
Both of the Wild’s centers, Jared Knowles and Adam Vigh-Yecsey showed their ability to move up and down the ice to support teammates and win faceoffs at critical points in play.
Both of the Wilds netminders deserve great praise for their performances too. Robert Ziraks conceded just 6 goals from the 43 shots he faced in the first half of the game and Harry Bird just 4 from 20.
Bench Coaches: Mikey Gilbert, Jon Little
Wild MVP: 41, Harry Bird