Wild Face Pitbulls In Pre-Season Game

Wild’s new import signing Elvis Veldze picks up an MVP award while playing for Fylde Flyers in the 2011/12 season (Photo by Adam Tranter)

The RTL sponsored Widnes Wild take to the ice for the first time since winning the Laidler Conference Play Off title back in April when they face NIHL South Division 2 side Bristol Pitbulls in a pre-season challenge match at Silver Blades Widnes this Sunday 27th August.

With there having been no competitive meetings between teams from NIHL North and NIHL South for a number of years – and only a very few friendly challenge games to speak of – it is hard to judge the relative standards of the two regionalised leagues.

When the Wild last faced the Pitbulls in 2014 they lost out 1-2 in a very close match and, with both teams having made progress since then, it should certainly be another competitive game.

Obviously, returning player / coach Ollie Barron will be using the game to see how his squad is gelling ahead of the new North 2 league season and will be keen to see how the new signings fit in alongside the returning players.

Fans will be looking forward to see the new signings make their debuts in Wild colours. The players who joined the Wild during the summer are:

  • Netminder Phil Crosby who won the N2 league title last season with Blackburn Eagles
  • Defenceman Dan Bracegirdle who played in Widnes Wild’s first two seasons – 2013/14 and 14/15 – before having to take a break due to illness.
  • Mikey Gilbert who was the top goalscorer for Altrincham Aces last season and is now running the junior development programme at Widnes
  • Matt Barlow – an 18 year old former Manchester Phoenix and Bradford junior who has played over 30 NIHL games with Bradford Bulldogs senior team and also iced three times for the Deeside Dragons in the Moralee Conference last season.

And Elvis Veldze – a 27 year old, 6ft 5” forward who has international experience playing for the Latvia national under-20 team.

Veldze played a handful of games for the Blackburn based Lancashire Raptors back in the 2010/11 but made more of a name for himself when he starred in the Fylde Flyers’ debut 2011/12 season in the English National League  – as the NIHL was called back then.

Elvis scored 5 goals on his debut away at Solway Sharks and went on to score 33+20 in 25 games for the Blackpool-based side in his only full season in British hockey. Other names from that early Flyers team include Wild players Bobby Caunce and Dan Bracegirdle and also Wild assistant coach Mark Gillingham – who was the Flyers player/coach for two seasons before moving to set up the original Widnes Wild team in 2013.

Veldze has spent the past two seasons playing league hockey back in his native Latvia – which is ranked 10th in the IIHF world championship standings – so should have a lot to offer the Wild this season.

The RTL sponsored Widnes Wild take on the Bristol Pitbulls in a pre-season challenge match this Sunday 27th August 2017 at Silver Blades Widnes. Admission is £7 for adults, £1 for children and free for season ticket holders. Face off is at 5.30pm and doors open at 4.45.   


 Report by Paul Breeze (www.icehockeyreview.co.uk)

Photo by Adam Tranter

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