Wild Drop To Second After Back To Back Defeats
The RTL-sponsored Widnes Wild were knocked off the top of the Laidler Division table following back to back defeats at the weekend, away at Sutton Sting on Saturday and then at home to Bradford Bulldogs at Silver Blades Widnes on Sunday night.
The weekend had started in a positive mood with the announcement of two player signings for the Wild – with Geoff Wigglesworth returning to the team after a stint playing for Deeside Dragons and Barry Sprakes formally signing as netminder cover for the rest of the season.
The game away to title rivals Sutton Sting on Saturday saw the Wild heavily out-shot throughout and they went behind just 90 seconds into the game when a speculative long shot from the blueline beat the Widnes defence and netminder Matt Croyle.
The score remained 1-0 at the first break and Sutton went 2-0 ahead on 23 minutes, leaving Widnes with a lot to do.
The Wild breakthrough finally came in the 39th minute when Kyle Haslam scored Widnes’ opener and a short-handed-goal by Stuart Brittle in the 47th minute – while defenceman Andrew Turner was sitting out a hooking penalty – pulled them level. However the Widnes fightback stalled at that point and Sutton retook the lead just 47 seconds later with a powerplay goal on the same penalty.
The Wild pushed hard to try and drag themselves back into the game but the Sutton defence held strong and the clock ticked down.
With a minute left to play, Widnes pulled netminder Croyle in favour of an extra attacker but the move backfired and Sutton rounded off the scoring with an empty net goal from their new import signing Stanislas Lascek, who has played over 160 EPL matches with Milton Keynes Lightning and Hull Pirates and looks a useful acquisition for the title run in.
With the top 4 teams in the Laidler Division all tied on 34 points overnight on Saturday, the home game against Bradford Bulldogs took on an even greater significance than the usual passionate M62 derby.
The Wild dominated the play for long periods and out-shot the visitors by a huge margin but, once again, they were caught out by an early goal as the Bulldogs took a surprise lead in the 4th minute.
Widnes had their chances but a resolute Bradford defence kept them out and the score remained 0-1 at the first period break.
The Wild upped their game and out-shot the Bulldogs by almost 2 to 1 in the second period and the outcome of the entire contest was actually decided during a frenetic 3-minute period leading up to the halfway stage of the match.
Danny Bullock equalised for Widnes at 27.10 but any hopes of building on that and taking a lead were dashed when the Bulldogs hit back with two quick-fire goals at 27.34 and 27.50.
A further goal from Bradford on 30.40 put them 1-4 ahead and, while Nick Manning pulled a goal back for Widnes with 80 seconds left in the period, alarm bells were beginning to ring in the Wild camp.
Widnes threw the kitchen sink at the Bradford goal in the final period, firing an incredible 37 shots in 20 minutes but the Bulldogs netminder Philip Pearson stopped them all. Bradford picked up numerous penalties as they battled to keep the Wild attack at bay but Widnes were unable to make the extra man pay on their powerplay opportunities – with the Bulldogs even managing to successfully defend 5 on 3 for almost 2 minutes which, on any other occasion, would have been a home banker.
The resulting 2-4 home defeat was the Wild’s second loss to Bradford this season and rounded off an altogether disappointing weekend that saw them knocked off the top of the Laidler Division table.
Telford Tigers are the new league leaders, having climbed from 4th to 1st after two wins at the weekend. Sutton Sting – who also beat the other title rivals Altrincham Aces on Sunday – are now in third place as Wild have beat them on head-to-head games. Previous league leaders Hull Jets and Altrincham are in 4th and 5th respectively.
The league this season is fascinating as the teams in positions 2 to 4 are all locked together on 34 points while the league leaders have 36, albeit having played more games. This means that the top 5 – in other words, 50% of the whole league – are all separated by just two points and this season’s Laidler Division is certainly the closest run competition in Britain for many years and, quite possibly, ever.
The Wild have the opportunity to reboot their title quest next Sunday 28th January 2018 when they face the Coventry Blaze at Silver Blades Widnes. Face off is at 5.30pm and doors open at 4.45.
The Widnes-based Halton Huskies recreational team played out an entertaining challenge game against the Hull-based Kingston City Knights at Silver Blades Widnes on Sunday night.
The game finished 4 –6 to the visitors and, despite the two teams racking up a whopping total of 96 penalty minutes between them, was played in fine spirit throughout and was a good all-round advert for recreational ice hockey.
Kingston took the lead after just 55 seconds and built up a 0-3 lead by the end of the first period.
The Huskies scored their first goal after 24 minutes with a fine solo effort by James Kelly. A hat trick goal for the Kingston captain Scott Hayward restored the three-goal cushion but it only lasted a matter of seconds before Edward Ridding pulled a goal back for the Huskies.
Two more goals late in the period gave the Knights a 2-6 lead heading into the second break and third period goals from Kelly, again, and Jeff Chapman-Watson for Halton gave the score a more respectable look.
Saturday 20th January 2018 – Laidler Division
Sutton Sting 4 – Widnes Wild 2
Period Scores: 1-0, 1-1, 2-1
Shots on Goal: Sutton 59 – Widnes 39 (18-11, 21-12, 19-16)
Penalties In Minutes: Sutton 4 – Widnes 18
Widnes Scoring: Stuart Brittle & Kyle Haslam 1+0, Pavel Vales, Ollie Barron, Mikey Gilbert & Geoff Wigglesworth all 0+1
Match Officials: Oliver Truswell – Referee, Haydn Hunter – Linesman, Callum Neenan – Linesman
Sunday 21st January 2018 – Laidler Division
Widnes Wild 2 – Bradford Bulldogs 4
Period Scores: 0-1, 2-3, 0-0
Shots on Goal: Widnes 71 – Bradford 31 (14-11, 20-11, 37-9)
Penalties In Minutes: Widnes 4 – Bradford 24
Widnes Scoring: Danny Bullock & Nick Manning 1+0, Dan Bracegirdle, Ken Armstrong, Ollie Barron & Stuart Brittle all 0+1
Match Officials: Chris Wells – Referee, Richard Wang – Linesman, Joseph Baggaley – Linesman
Match reports by Paul Breeze – www.icehockeyreview.co.uk
Photos by Geoff White – www.gw-images.com