Wild Look To Retain Play Off Crown In Laidler Finale Weekend

Wild’s Shaun Dippnall receives the Play Off Trophy from EIHA Vice-President Charles Dacres after the win against Sheffield Senators in the 2017 final (Photo above and top by John Milton)

The RTL-sponsored Widnes Wild ice hockey team will be looking to retain the play off trophy that they won last year when they take part in the NIHL North Laidler Division Play Offs this weekend, 14th and 15th April, at Planet Ice Widnes.

The Wild beat the Sheffield Senators 2-1 in a closely fought final last April at iceSheffield to secure the first piece of silverware in their history and, having missed out on the league title again this year, will be hoping to end the season on a high note with a trophy win in front of their home fans.

The semi-final line-up has finally been established after the Wild were officially named runners-up by the League. The Management Committee awarded them three points from the two away games that were left unplayed at the end of the regular season and this lifted them from 4th place up into second.

The Wild were handed a 0-5 away win, and two league points, for the game away at Hull Jets because the hosts had been unable to ice a team for the arranged date – and the game away at Deeside was awarded as a 0-0 draw with one point being awarded to each team as the game had to be called off because match officials were not able to get to the venue due to adverse weather conditions.

The three additional points mean that Widnes end up on the same total as Hull Jets – 52 – but finish above them in the league table by virtue of a better head-to-head record in games between the two teams.

Ironically, those two teams will now meet in the second semi final of the Play Offs which faces off at Planet Ice Widnes on Saturday at 7.30pm.

League champions Sutton Sting play fourth place Telford Tigers in the first semi final, which faces off at 4.30pm on Saturday and the winners of the two semi finals meet in the Play Off final on Sunday, face off 5.30pm.

Interestingly enough, Widnes have a better head to head record against all three of the other semi-finalists, having also beaten both Sutton Sting and Telford Tigers by 3 to 1 in the series of four games between the teams.

The only team to have a superior record over the Wild over the course of the season was the Sheffield Senators who won 3 games to 1. Both Altrincham Aces and Bradford Bulldogs had “2 and 2” records against the Wild, although in each case Widnes came out on top overall with aggregate scores of 12-9 and 18-7 respectively.

The Laidler Division Play Off weekend at Planet Ice Widnes is an all-ticket event with only a very few “standing-only” tickets left available. For last minute ticket information, supporters are advised to call the Box Office on 0151 420 7930.

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The Halton Huskies took the long journey to the north east on Saturday and came back with a sensational 4-6 win away to the Whitley Bay Sharks in a challenge match. The two teams had met in Widnes back in February where the Huskies won 11-9 in a 20-goal thriller and this latest game was similarly close and exciting.

The home side opened the scoring after just 3 minutes and they were 2-0 up before the Huskies opened their own account with a goal from James Kelly on 10 minutes. A third from the Sharks just 2 minutes later rounded off the scoring for the first period and the home side led 3-1 at the first break.

The Huskies found an extra gear in the second period and two unanswered goals – from Kelly again and James Williams – put them level 3-3 at the second break.

The momentum continued into the third period with two more goals from James Kelly on 42 and 44 minutes and Jeff Chapman-Watson gave the Huskies a 3-6 lead with just over 5 minutes left to play.

The Sharks found the net again in the last minute but it was too late to inspire a comeback and the score finished 4-6 to the Widnes-based team.

The Huskies are away to the Solihull Grizzlies on 22nd April – face off 7.15pm. Their next home is on Sunday 17th June when the play the Blackburn Buccaneers in a challenge match – the same day that the Riverside Raiders are at home to the Wyre Seagulls in the Summer Classic Cup.

 

Report by Paul Breeze

 

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