The YKK-sponsored Widnes Wild face a huge test this weekend, as they continue their pre-season programme with back-to-back games against Moralee Division Blackburn Hawks, playing an away game on Saturday and then at home on Sunday at Planet Ice Widnes.
The Wild beat Laidler Division team Altrincham Aces home and away in their previous warm-up games but the Hawks 1 Team will provide much sterner opposition, as it is widely acknowledged that there is a wide gap in both playing standards and team budgets between the two divisions.
The Wild have never beaten a team from a higher league and the closest they have come to date was against the Deeside Dragons in the promotion game back in April 2017, when the match ended in a 3 – 3 draw before the Dragons took the win in overtime.
The last time the Wild played the Hawks 1 Team was in the NIHL North Cup during the 2015/2016 season. At that time, the Hawks were enjoying a ‘purple patch’ and had just won the Moralee Division League and Play Off double and were in the middle of a long, unbeaten run.
Since then, the Wild have enjoyed their own ‘purple patch’, picking up four trophies in the last three seasons, and new Head Coach Mike Clancy has now put together an exciting new-look squad for the forthcoming season.
The Hawks have undergone many changes in playing personnel and coaches over the past few seasons and, with their own pre-season preparations quite possibly being hampered by refurbishment work being carried out at the Blackburn rink during the summer, may find it tough going in what will be their own first pre-season game.
The Hawks 1 Team this season includes former Wild players Geoff Wigglesworth, Tom Revesz and Lee Pollitt, while the Wild line-up will see Chris Gee – who played a season and a half with the Hawks – come up against his former team mates.
The game away in Blackburn on Saturday faces off at 5.30 p.m. The return match on Sunday, 8th September 2019 at Planet Ice, Widnes also faces off at 5.30 p.m., with doors opening at 4.45 p.m.
The Wild Academy Under 15 Team play their first game of the new season away to Blackburn this Sunday, 8th September 2019 – face off 6.15 p.m.
The Under 15 Team are playing in the Under 15 North Division 3 again this season, coming up against teams from Blackburn, Solihull and Deeside.
They have three away games before their first home game of the season on Saturday, 23rd November 2019, when they take on the Dragons Under 15s at Planet Ice, Widnes.
The Wild Academy has teams entered in all competitive age groups for the first time this season, with the addition of new teams at Under 18 and Under 11 levels to complement the U15, U13 and U9 teams that all played last season for the first time.