Wild Preparation for the Playoffs
Widnes Wild went into their final weekend of cup games before they travel to Sheffield in a bid to win their first trophy in the clubâ€™s short history. Solway Sharks and Billingham Stars were first up for the Wild though as they rounded off their final two cup matches of the season.
Saturday saw the Wild travel to Scotland for their first time as they faced the Solway Sharks. Travelling with no official league goalie, the Wild would have the services of recreational team, Widnes Wildcats netminder Ian â€˜Budgieâ€™ Thirkettle.
The game would start at a frantic pace, with the Wild standing firm against the Moralee Conference 4th placed Sharks. Eventually the breakthrough would come by way of George Crawshaw, a solo effort, breaking through the defence and firing into the top corner. The period would end 1-0 to the visitors.
Even though the Wild would outshoot the Sharks in the 2nd period, two quick goals would turn the game on its head giving the home side a 2-1 advantage. Three further goals in the 3rd period would kill off any hope that the Wild had but a gutsy performance none the less. A happy coach Mckenzie had this to say about the game;
â€˜I was extremely happy with the way we played on Saturday. We made it extremely difficult for them through large spells and were very unlucky to be 2-1 down at the end of the 2nd period. But thatâ€™s hockey and we have certainly learnt to be confident in the way we play. It was great to play against a real hockey team that play the game properly, all credit to Martin Grubbâ€™s sideâ€™
On Sunday the Wild faced the Billingham Stars at The Hive, Widnes. On Saturday the Stars had a fantastic result beating Blackburn Hawks meaning that two points against the Wild would secure the Stars the NIHL Cup.
Wild were without player-coach Scott Mckenzie and Tom McDonald returned between the pipes. Both teams came out fast, with the first goal taking 15 minutes to come, unfortunately for the home fans, it would go the way of the Stars. A second followed almost straight away to end the period 2-0 to the Stars.
Four more unanswered goals in the 2nd and 3rd periods increased the visitors lead to 6-0, all but securing the NIHL Cup for the Stars. Tom Ratcliffe got a consolation goal back for the Wild but a final goal for the Stars would end the scoring at 7-1. Not the result the home side were looking for but valuable experience gained heading into the playoff weekend next week.
Coach Mckenzie is looking forward to the NIHL Playoff extravaganza;
â€˜Playoff weekend no matter what league you are in is always an exciting time for the players as well as the fans. There will be some great hockey played in both Laidler and Moralee Conferences and as a club we are thrilled to be a part of it. It has been a long season but the guys are ready and know what is expected of them, we will do everything we can to return to Widnes as playoff champions.â€™