(Photo by Hannah Walker)
Saturday 1st February: Hull Jets 12 – YKK Widnes Wild 0 (Laidler Division)
Sunday 2nd February: YKK Widnes Wild 5 – Deeside Dragons 4 (Laidler Division)
The YKK-sponsored Widnes Wild edged closer to the Laidler Division play off places with a closely-contested 5 – 4 win over local rivals Deeside Dragons at Planet Ice, Widnes on Sunday.
The Wild have been playing ‘catch up’ in the division all season, having earlier concentrated on playing matches in the NIHL Midland Cup Competition and this has left them lagging behind in terms of the league title race. Now that they are catching up in the number of league games played, their true league position will soon become more apparent.
The Wild’s quest to retain the Laidler Division title that they won last season did, however, take a bit of a knock on Saturday when they travelled to Humberside to take on the Hull Jets for the first time this season.
An unfortunate combination of a below-par performance by the Wild and an impressive display by the league leaders resulted in a 12 – 0 win for Hull with four goals being conceded in each period. Luckily, the Wild were able to bounce back from this set back and put in a gritty and battling performance in the local Derby game the following evening.
The game on Sunday was played at a furious pace throughout, with both teams giving their all. It was end-to-end hockey – with considerably fewer penalties than in previous encounters – and the “shots on goal” tally was almost identical at 42 for the Wild and 43 for the Dragons overall.
Widnes opened the scoring after just two minutes with a goal from recent German signing Daniel Haid and doubled the advantage just 60 seconds later with a strike from Shaun Dippnall. The Dragons countered on six minutes and then drew level on 13 minutes before Widnes edged back into the lead with a 16th minute goal from Michael Novak. However, the visitors drew level again with just 50 seconds to go in the period and the game was left finely poised at 3 – 3 at the first break, with both sides still having plenty to play for.
The second period was quieter in terms of goals, as both teams closed up determined to give nothing away. It took ten minutes until the next breakthrough when Shaun Dippnall fired the Wild back into the lead with a power play goal at the halfway point in the game. Deeside equalised again two minutes later and, at the second period break, the score remained on a knife edge at 4-4 with two league points and local bragging rights very much at stake.
If the second period was tense, the third period was even more so and the atmosphere around the rink, helped by a sizeable vocal contingent from North Wales, was electric. What turned out to be the deciding goal of the game was scored by Bez Hughes on 53 minutes but there was still plenty of drama in the latter stages of the match.
Deeside called a 30-second Time Out with 90 seconds left in the game and removed their net minder for the closing moments in favour of an extra attacker. This tactic put the Wild goal under considerable threat but the home defence held out and Widnes were able to celebrate a much-welcome 5 – 4 victory.
The MVP Awards were presented by Craig Bennett and Barry Sprakes of Sprakes Transport Services – who were Match sponsors for the night and have also been long-term sponsors of the Wild club since it started – and went to Matthew Wainwright for Deeside and Bez Hughes for the Wild.
The YKK-sponsored Widnes Wild are next in action this Sunday 9th February when they take on Telford Tigers 2 team at Planet Ice Widnes, 5.30 p.m. face off.