The RTL-sponsored Widnes Wild made it a 4-point weekend with a sensational 2-1 overtime win over Sutton Sting at Silver Blades Widnes on Sunday night.
The Sutton Sting side had been unbeaten in their previous 8 games and were snapping at the Wild’s heels just one place behind in the Laidler Division table. A much closer contest was certainly expected than the 1-6 victory away at Blackburn the night before, but this turned out to be arguably the closest and tensest game EVER seen at Silver Blades Widnes.
After a quiet opening with both sides testing each other out, Widnes thought they had scored in the 4th minute but the referee disallowed the goal.
The rest of the first period was excellent end to end hockey with pressure by both teams but no breakthrough for either side. The Wild had to contend with a couple of penalties and defended those short-handed spells well to leave the score 0-0 at the first break.
At the end the second period, it was still 0-0 and the spectacle of two perfectly matched teams – neither giving an inch – was one to behold. The Sting managed an incredible 22 shots on Matt Croyle’s net compared to the Wild’s 11 and he made numerous vital saves throughout the match.
Early in the third period, some of the building tension around the rink was briefly lifted by an entertaining and good-humoured fight between the Wild’s Lee Kemp and Sting’s Ryan Johnson who both received 2+2 minute penalties.
However, the clock clicked down and the tension levels rose again and, with 10 minutes to go, it looked very much as if the game was heading for the rarest of ice hockey results – a 0-0 draw!
The Wild were slightly on top in the third period and outshot the Sting by 16 to 7 and it was slightly against the run of play at the time when the Sting suddenly scored the opening goal of the game at 52.35. The Wild defence struggled to clear the puck, netminder Croyle fended off several close range shots but the pressure was too great and the chance fell to an unguarded Sting stick. This left the Wild with a mountain to climb and not very long left to do it in.
Five minutes or so passed without any headway being made and the Widnes bench called a 30-second timeout at 58.12 – undoubtedly to discuss the option of pulling the netminder if a suitable opportunity arose.
Shortly after this, a Sting player was called for a slashing penalty and, during the delayed whistle, the Wild were able to pull Croyle and use an extra attacker until Sutton regained possession and play was stopped for the player to be sent to the penalty box. The clock stood at 58.57 and the Sting called for their own 30-second timeout.
Play was resumed with a face off in the Sutton defensive zone, with the Wild icing 6 skaters against the Sting’s 4 and no netminder in the Widnes goal.
Time passes very slowly when you are defending an empty net and it passes very quickly when you are attacking trying to force an equaliser and it is truly impossible to put into words the electric atmosphere around the Silver Blades rink during that last minute of play.
Sutton cleared the puck out of their end and had several chances of a shot at the empty net but, with time quickly running out, the Wild’s Czech defenceman Pavel Vales took control of the puck and fired in a rocket shot to score a priceless equaliser with just 20 seconds left of the game.
That goal forced an extra “overtime” period of play to determine an overall winner. The extra 5 minutes were played out at the same pace as the rest of the game and both sides had their chances. Just as it seemed as if the game would go to a penalty shoot out – the same thing happened again and Pavel Vales fired in the winning goal with just 12 seconds left on the clock!
The 4 points from the two wins over the weekend mean that Widnes close the gap on league leaders Altrincham Aces to just three points with a game in hand. They pull clear of Sutton who remain in third and are three points behind the Wild but with games in hand over both teams above them.
The RTL-sponsored Widnes Wild are next in action this Sunday 19th November when they play the Deeside Dragons N2 team at Silver Blades Widnes. Face off is at 5.30pm and doors open at 4.45.
Sunday 12th November 2017 – Laidler Division
Widnes Wild 2 –Sutton Sting 1 (Overtime Win)
Period Scores: 0-0, 0-0, 1-1, 1-0
Shots on Goal: Widnes 44 – Sutton 43
Penalties In Minutes: Widnes 12 – Sutton 8
Widnes Scoring: Pavel Vales 2+0, Stuart Brittle 0+2, Shaun Dippnall 0+1
Match Officials: Richard Fraley – Referee, Richard Wang – Linesman, Sam Campbell – Linesman