Wild introduced two new players, Aled Roberts, the former Deeside star, and Jordan Owen, formerly with Deeside, Blackburn and Manchester. Steve Gilmartin continued in net for Widnes. With many spectators taking their seats an hour before face off and a strong away following, the rink was buzzing as the two teams appeared for the warm up.
Wild got off to a sensational start, when recent signing Geoff Wigglesworth forced the puck past Nick Saxton after 37 seconds. Saxton had made the first save from point blank range but couldn’t prevent the new boy following up to score. Constant Widnes pressure was rewarded when the home side brought the crowd to their feet with a second goal in the 9th minute. Bobby Caunce was on hand to fire home a rebound inside the right hand post, after good passing from the hardworking Tom Ratcliffe and Josh Grocutt. Occasional attacks by the Blackburn forwards kept the Widnes defence on their toes and gave a taste of things to come. Last week’s hat trick hero, Shaun Dippnall, was next on the scoresheet when, in the 10th minute, he fired hard into the bottom right corner from a searching Bobby Caunce pass.
After such a dominant start, it perhaps came as no surprise when Blackburn silenced a buoyant home crowd by reducing the arrears within seconds, having called a timeout after the Wild’s third goal. They broke clear and Andrew Duxbury finished well on the breakaway.
The second period opened with a further Eagles goal. Harry Bolton firing an unstoppable shot low into the bottom left hand corner. Following considerable Blackburn pressure, Wild broke clear for Bobby Caunce to take a Tom Ratcliffe pass and restore a two goal lead in the 29th minute. Wild went further ahead within 3 minutes when playmaker Ben Brown fired home from a Shaun Dippnall pass on the powerplay. Errors in defence led to Blackburn coming back with two well taken goals inside two minutes. Indecision allowed Chris Wareing and Tom Murphy to bring the visitors right back into the game and edge the second period 3-2.
The third period opened with both teams battling for the next score and fortunately it was Widnes who gained the advantage, Geoff Wigglesworth scoring a vital, if confusing, 44th minute goal after Shaun Dippnall had appeared to put the puck away after a Bobby Caunce pass, but Wigglesworth put it beyond doubt. Back came Blackburn for Chris Royds scoring on the powerplay in the 48th minute. The fierce pace of an all action game had led to both teams adopting a more measured game plan. Patience in passing led to Geoff Wigglesworth completing a hat trick following good work from Dan Bracegirdle and Dippnall. The scoring was completed in the 57th minute, with Ken Armstrong taking a Bobby Caunce pass to shoot between the netminders legs.
Blackburn contributed much to a real crowd pleaser with their hardworking team largely succeeeding in disrupting the Widnes passing game. Geoff Wiggleswoth took the MVP for Widnes after an excellent all round display. Bobby Caunce, Shaun Dippnall and youngster Tom Ratcliffe all showed up well as Wild made it three victories in a row.
Wild Head Coach Mark Gillingham understood the importance of the result.
“It was another hard fought game, just as the other three we’ve had with Blackburn this season have been. I don’t think we were at our best, and we made some mistakes at times which could have been costly had we not been able to find our scoring touch in the Blackburn end of the ice. Those are obviously things we need to iron out. We have to take wins whenever we can though, not matter what manner we find them in. It was crucial for us to carry over the run of results we’ve been experiencing over the past few weeks, and we found a way to do that. Blackburn are probably the hardest working team in the league, so you’re under pressure for 60 minutes whenever you play them, and to score eight goals is an achievement. Next week, at Nottingham, will probably be a more open game where we can go back to our own, more flowing style of play, so we need to keep the momentum shifting in our favour.”
There was plenty for the crowd to enjoy in this end to end contest but Wild will have to be at their best to take points next Sunday when they visit Nottingham Lions, face off 19.45