The YKK sponsored Widnes Wild extended their winning run to 16 games in a row with an incredibly tense and hard fought 2-3 win away at Coventry Blaze on Saturday.
Widnes had already beaten the Blaze three times this season but the Coventry side had improved in recent weeks and things were not helped when the already late face off time of 7.30pm slipped back to 8.15pm due to a junior game over-running beforehand.
The Wild took the lead through the Laidler Division’s leading goal scorer Jakub Hajek after just 3 minutes and, while Widnes had more possession and more shots on goal than their hosts, they had difficulty converting that advantage into goals and were pegged back by a Coventry equaliser with less then two minutes to go in the first period.
Widnes edged ahead again with a Mikey Gilbert goal in the 25th minute but were caught out just 5 minutes later while pushing forward to make the most of a powerplay for slashing and conceded a shorthanded goal to put Coventry back level approaching the mid point of the game.
A goal from Michal Novak put the Wild back in front with 5 minutes left to play in the second period and, although nobody knew it at the time, that turned out to be the last goal of the game.
A completely goal-less period in ice hockey is fairly rare and the closer the clock got to the final buzzer, the higher the tension racked up around the Coventry rink with the Blaze team pushing forward to try and force a late equaliser and the Wild defence putting in a sterling performance to protect their lead.
Widnes also had their own chances to go further ahead but were thwarted by the Coventry netminder who kept out all but 3 of the 48 shots he faced in the game.
The resulting 2-3 win – coupled with the news that potential title rivals Hull Jets had been beaten at home by Bradford Bulldogs – gave the Wild an excellent start to a weekend in which 4 points would be crucial to their Laidler Division championship ambitions.
MATCH DETAILS: Saturday 12th January 2019 – Laidler Division
Coventry NIHL Blaze 2 – Widnes Wild 3
Period Scores: 1-1, 1-2, 0-0
Shots on Goal: Coventry 18 – Widnes 48 (5-13, 4-21, 9-14)
Penalties In Minutes: Coventry 2 – Widnes 2
Widnes Scoring: Jakub Hajek 1+0,Michal Novak 1+0, Mikey Gilbert 1+0, Ollie Barron 0+2, Lee Kemp, Bez Hughes, Simon Offord, Shaun Dippnall all 0+1
MVP: Widnes – Michal Novak
Report by Paul Breeze – www.icehockeyreview.co.uk
Photos by Geoff White – www.gw-images.com