The RTL sponsored Widnes Wild remain top of the NIHL North Division 2 (Laidler) after extending their winning start to the season to six in a row with victories over Sheffield Senators – 4-5 away on Saturday – and then at home to Blackburn Hawks 16-2 at Silver Blades Widnes on Sunday.
The game on Saturday was the first time that the Wild had played at iceSheffield since their historic play-off win there back in April and it was their first meeting of the season with the team they had beaten 2-1 in that final.
The long journey, late face off time and delayed start to the game obviously affected the travelling Wild players as they had trouble getting themselves going in the early part of the game. Despite having several opportunities, they had trouble making anything of them and it was the Senators who scored first in the 8th minute.
The home team scored again to finish the first period leading 2-0 and then hit a third goal on the mid-point of the game before the Wild finally managed to start making their presence felt.
A goal from player/coach Ollie Barron on 31 minutes gave the travelling fans a glimmer of hope and then a second three minutes later raised Widnes hopes further. With the score at 3-2 at the end of the second period, there was still plenty for the Wild to play for in the final 20 minutes.
A further Sheffield goal on 45 minutes looked to have checked the Widnes revival but a hat-trick goal from Ollie Barron some 4 minutes afterwards kept the dream alive and then a well taken shorthanded goal from Stuart Brittle dragged the Wild level with 7 minutes left to play.
The fightback was completed in the 57th minute when Brittle, again, forced the puck home to put the Wild in the lead for the first time in the game and the clock slowly ticked down to a hard earned Widnes victory.
The game on Sunday was a different story entirely as the opponents were the new Blackburn Hawks Division 2 development team, composed mainly of young players so that they can gain experience of playing in NIHL league competition before eventually stepping up to the senior Hawks team in a higher division.
The game started off as expected with the Wild having nearly all the possession. They outshot the Hawks 32 to 5 in the first period and it was no real surprise that, following an edgy first couple of minutes, Widnes took the lead on 4 minutes with a strike from player coach Ollie Barron.
This prompted an opening of the floodgates and goals from Andrew Turner, Bez Hughes and then two shorthanded strikes from Mikey Gilbert within 20 seconds of each other had the Wild 5-0 in front before the nine minute mark. A further goal from Barron on 15 minutes finished the scoring for the first period and left the Wild with a healthy 6-0 lead at the first buzzer.
There was a curious incident at the end of the period when the Blackburn team complained about Wild netminder Phil Crosby’s pads being “illegally sized”. There are particular specifications that have to be adhered to for goaltending equipment and the opposing team is allowed to ask for this to be measured if they believe there to be an infringement. Match referee Richard Fraley duly measured the item concerned and found there to be no equipment infringement. This led to the Blackburn team being assessed a 2 minute bench penalty which meant that they would have to start the second period a man short, and this led to a furious debate as the respective team staffs left the ice.
Widnes took immediate advantage of the man advantage as import defenceman Pavel Vales fired in a powerplay goal just 28 seconds after the restart and then a goal from Nick Manning and a hat trick goal from Mikey Gilbert made it 9-0 to the Wild as the game approached the half-way point.
The undaunted Hawks team battled on, however, and were rewarded with a goal themselves on 35 minutes as team captain and former Widnes player Joe Charlton slotted the puck past netminder Crosby. The Wild hit back with a 10th goal in the 38th minute courtesy of former Blackburn player Ken Armstrong and, with the score standing 10-1 at the end of the second period, the result already looked likely to be a home win.
Wild’s Stuart Brittle scored his first goal of the night at 43.32 and, just 17 seconds later, Josh Birtwistle pulled one back for the visitors, although that was to be last time they had cause to celebrate.
Widnes then fired in five unanswered goals in a 9 minute period in the latter part of the period with strikes from Vales, Mike Mawer, two for Tom Ratcliffe and a first Wild goal for recent signing Matty Barlow to bring the score at the final buzzer to 16-2.
Those two wins over the weekend mean that Widnes have won all six of their league games to date and sit top of the Division 2 Laidler table with 12 points – two points ahead of Altrincham Aces who have played one game less and who are the visitors at Silver Blades Widnes next Sunday 8th October.
Sunday’s game against Blackburn Hawks was filmed by the “Drop The Puck” TV programme and extended highlights will be shown on the “Made In Liverpool” this Saturday 7th October at 11am and on other regional “Made In…” stations around the country at different times.
|Saturday 30th September 2017 – NIHL North Division 2 (Laidler)
Sheffield Senators 4 – Widnes Wild 5
Period Scores: 2-0, 1-2, 1-3
Shots on Goal: Sheffield 26 – Widnes 21
Penalties in Minutes: Sheffield 50 – Widnes 20Widnes Scoring: Ollie Barron 3+1, Stuart Brittle 2+2, Nick Manning 0+3, Pavel Vales 0+2
Match Officials: Roy Hamilton – Referee, Haris Hussain – Linesman, Ethan Hardy – Linesman
|Sunday 1st October 2017 – NIHL North Division 2 (Laidler)
Widnes Wild 16 – Blackburn Hawks N2 2
Period Scores: 6-0, 4-1, 6-1
Shots on Goal: Widnes 76 – Blackburn 15
Penalties in Minutes: Widnes 8 – Blackburn 20Widnes Scoring: Mikey Gilbert 3+3, Ollie Barron 2+3, Pavel Vales 2+1, Tom Ratcliffe 2+0, Stuart Brittle 1+5, Ken Armstrong 1+3, Matt Barlow & Bez Hughes both 1+2, Andrew Turner, Nick Manning & Mike Mawer all 1+1, Simon Offord 0+2, Dan Bracegirdle & Lee Kemp both 0+1
Match Officials: Richard Fraley – Referee , Simon Clark – Linesman, Jake Apsley – Linesman
Match Reports by Paul Breeze (www.icehockeyreview.co.uk)