The RTL sponsored Widnes Wild will take on Sheffield Senators in the Laidler Conference play off final after the Yorkshire side sensationally knocked out league champions Blackburn Eagles 1-3 in the second semi-final at iceSheffield.
The Wild’s game had followed the form book as they beat third place finishers Altrincham Aces 2-0 in the early morning game but the second semi-final was a different story.
The Eagles had finished a massive 10 points ahead of fourth place Senators in the final Laidler table and had a 2-1-1 record against the Senators. They would normally have been expected to be firm favourites to reach the final but the Eagles’ preparations for the play offs had been overshadowed by a dispute with their home rink over ice time arrangements and sponsorship for the new season and this may have taken its toll on the players.
As it was, the Sheffield Senators – playing on their home ice – raced into a 0-3 lead by the first break and the game was effectively over after just 20 minutes. Although the Eagles outshot the Senators by 41 to 31, their finishing was certainly below par and Mark Hartley played a blinder in the Sheffield goal.
A goal for the Eagles just after the mid-point of the game did little to change their fortunes and ended up being little more than a consolation.
Over the course of the Laidler Conference season, Widnes have had a better playing record against the Senators – won 3 lost 1 – than they have against the Eagles (1 and 3) so they may fancy their chances in the play-off final – especially with several of the Wild players having spent most of their careers playing in Sheffield and, therefore, feeling as much at “home” there as the home team. But play-off hockey is very special and anything can happen in a one-off game – as the Senators proved against the Eagles.
The Laidler Conference Play Off Final between the RTL sponsored Widnes Wild and Sheffield Senators is tomorrow – Sunday 9th April – at iceSheffield, 1.30pm face off. It should be a fascinating final 60 minutes (or more…?) of Laidler hockey for the season.
Report by Paul Breeze (www.icehockeyreview.co.uk)