Wild Share Spoils With Lions
Pavel Vales (extreme left of picture) scores Wild’s 3rd goal (Photo by Geoff White – www.gwimages.com)
The RTL sponsored Widnes Wild saw their Laidler Conference title hopes suffer a setback with a 3-3 draw at home to a greatly improved Nottingham Lions side at Silver Blades Widnes on Sunday.
The Lions had not won in 3 games and the Wild team – under-manned due to the absence of Matt Croyle and Mike Mawer who were away with the GB University team in Kazakhstan and also Joe Gilbert who has decided to leave the club for personal reasons – struggled throughout to stamp their authority on the game overall.
The match actually started well for the home side and they outshot their visitors by more than two to one in the opening period. However, it was the Lions who scored first – just on 7 minutes – while Widnes were a man short due to a penalty against defenceman Andrew Turner for delaying the game.
The Wild bounced back from this and managed to take advantage of their own powerplay situation when Karl Niamatali spotted a gap by the left post and fired past the netminder to even the scores at 14.55. A little over two minutes later, Ken Armstrong popped up with a second goal to give the Wild a 2-1 lead heading into the first break.
The tide turned in favour of the visitors in the second period as Nottingham visibly upped their game. The Wild started picking up penalties as they tried to keep the Lions at bay and it was during one such short-handed shift that they conceding the equalising goal in the 32nd minute. Just over 6 minutes later, the Lions scored again to retake the lead and the score remained 2-3 to the visitors at the second break.
The third period was especially tense as the Wild pressed forward in search of an equaliser. The pressure paid off when Czech player Pavel Vales fired in Stuart Brittle’s cross to score the game tying goal in the 44th minute. Unfortunately, any hopes of building on that promising start to the period were dashed as the Wild picked up a series of minor penalties that put them on the back foot and saw them having to defend more than attack.
Wild netminder Tom McDonald made some crucial saves during this phase of the game and the tension inside the arena became almost unbearable as the clock ticked down the final minutes of the final period.
The Wild players – and jubilant fans – thought they had taken a vital lead with just a little over 2 minutes left to play as the puck was forced past the netminder through a melee of players and trickled across the goal-line. Unfortunately, the referee had already blown his whistle a split second before the goal light went on and, after considerable discussion with the goal judge and the two linesmen, the decision was finally made and the goal not allowed.
The last 90 seconds or so were played at the most frantic pace as both teams tried to force a late winning goal. Widnes called a time out with just 17 seconds left in the game and then a debatable icing call with just 7 seconds left was met with such ferocity from both sets of players that the referee eventually re-started the game from the centre spot. Neither team was able to make any headway in the remaining few seconds and the resulting draw will have ultimately been a disappointment for both camps.
The single point from the game means that Widnes drop down to third place in the Laidler Conference table, having been overtaken by Sheffield Senators who picked up two wins at the weekend. They are now 1 point ahead of the Wild, having played one game more, and Widnes’ visit to iceSheffield next Saturday for the last meeting of the season between the two teams will have huge significance in the chase for final league positions.
After that tricky away game next Saturday, the Wild are at home on Sunday 5th February when they face bottom team Coventry Blaze at Silver Blades Widnes.
Sunday 29th January 2017 – Laidler Conference
Widnes Wild 3 – Nottingham Lions 3
Period Scores: 2-1, 0-2, 1-0
Shots On Goal: Widnes 57 – Nottingham 39 (23-11, 17-17, 17-11)
Penalties In Minutes: Widnes 14 – Nottingham 8
Widnes Scoring: Karl Niamatali, Ken Armstrong, Pavel Vales all 1+0, Andrew Turner, Nick Manning, Stuart Brittle, Will Barron & Berwyn Hughes all 0+1
Photos by Geoff White (www.gw-images.com)
Report by Paul Breeze (www.icehockeyreview.co.uk)