Wild Celebrate McKenzie Return with Four Points
The Widnes Wild went into the weekend with the news that Scott McKenzie would be returning as Player-Coach for the 2016/17 season. Requiring just one point from four as they looked to secure a position in the NIHL promotion/relegation game, the Wild were missing a total of seven players as they travelled to Coventry on Saturday and returned home to face the Hull Jets on Sunday evening.
Saturdayâ€™s game in Coventry would see Tom McDonald get his first start in the NIHL Laidler Conference for the 2015/16 season, with regular netminder Greg Ruxton unavailable for selection. It would be McDonald that would be beaten first as Coventry would take an early lead. The Wild however, would find their feet, a hat-trick from Scott McKenzie and a Shaun Dippnall strike would provide a 4-1 advantage but with just 6 seconds remaining, the Blaze would steal a goal back to end the period at 4-2.
Scott Mckenzie would get his 4th goal of the evening to make it 5-2 but poor defensive play by the visitors gave the Blaze 3 unanswered goals to tie the game at 5-5. A rattled Wild managed to shake off the disappointment and respond with goals from Geoff Wigglesworth and Tom Ratcliffe to make the game 7-5. No more goals in the final session gave the Wild the two points that they required to secure 2nd place in the Laidler Conference.
Sunday night saw the Wild in league action at home for the final time this season. Coach McKenzie’s side had not lost at home in the league since October 2015 so although there may not have been much to play for, McKenzie certainly would have wanted to maintain that impressive consistency at home.
As they did on Saturday, Wild started sluggishly, conceding early. Greg Ruxton, back between the pipes, couldnâ€™t squeeze his pads quickly enough to see the puck creep over the line and give the visitors a 1-0 advantage. Scott McKenzie again would be on the score sheet alongside Ken Armstrong who would get his first of the season. Two quick goals providing a 2-1 lead before the Hull Jets responded with one of their own to make it 2-2 and the period would end that way.
A further goal from Mckenzie made it 3-2 early in the 2nd period but again the Jets responded with a goal of their own tying the game at 3-3. Goals from Geoff Wigglesworth and Captain Shaun Dippnall ended the 2nd period at 5-3 with the Wild starting to take control of the game.
The Hull Jets ran out of energy in the 3rd period, the hard working Jets couldnâ€™t contain the firepower of the Wild with Shaun Dippnall finding the back of the net followed by two more goals for player-coach Scott Mckenzie rounding his tally up to 4 on the night. The score would end 8-3 to the Wild which seemed a little unfair on the travelling Jets as they battled all the way to the end of the game.
Coach Mckenzie had this to say of not only his return but his thoughts on the weekends performances;
â€˜First of all it is great to be back in Widnes for the 2016/17 campaign. What we are building here in Widnes is a process so it was inevitable that I would stay and try to continue to build what we have started to in the last 11 months. It is not just about the senior team, our junior academy will play a major part within the whole club and we are really looking to build up our numbers in order to enter the league next year. I have a lot of fantastic volunteers that give up their valuable time to help and I am forever grateful for all that these people do. Also our senior players have been a credit to the club this season, they really have committed to everything we have tried to do.â€™
â€˜With regards to the weekendâ€™s games it was more a case of â€˜job doneâ€™ for us, we didnâ€™t play well at all on Saturday, nor Sunday for that matter. We had a lot of passengers all weekend and the guys are very much aware that I was not happy with the effort and level of commitment shown to team defence over the whole weekend. If we want to get promoted, we need to be a lot better that we were this weekend. In saying that, we got what we needed, secured 2nd place and created an opportunity, itâ€™s all about grabbing that opportunity and making it oursâ€™.
The Widnes Wild return to action this weekend as they make the short journey to Deeside on Saturday before returning home on Sunday to face Solway Sharks in the NIHL Cup. Face-off is at the usual time of 17:30 with doors opening at 16:45. Tickets are priced at Â£6 for adults and Â£3 for children. For more information call box office on 0151 420 7930 or alternatively email; email@example.com.