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The YKK sponsored Widnes Wild play their first game of the new NIHL season this Sunday 4th September when they take on Laidler Division outfit Sutton Sting in a pre-season challenge match at Planet Ice Widnes, face off 5.30pm.

As is usual in ice hockey, there has been a lot of player movement during the summer months with several members of last year’s squad leaving for pastures new and player coach Richard Haggar has been busy assembling a new look roster for the new season.

The Wild have an injection of National Division experience with the arrivals of netminder Miles Finney from Sheffield Steeldogs and long time Solway Shark Joe Coulter who spent last season with Leeds Knights. Coulter played 13 games for the Wild during the Covid lockdown period, helping them to win the North 21 Cup and the Division 1 National Championship.

Another returnee is Calum Ruddick who played in the Wild’s first ever game back in August 2013 and last season played with Blackburn Hawks.

The squad is further bolstered by the arrival of Andrew Hopkins and Jonathan Williamson, both previously with Altrincham Aces, and young talents Adam Jasecko and Rhys Edwards – from Hull and Bradford respectively.

Sunday’s opponents Sutton Sting finished 3rd in the Laidler Conference last season and narrowly lost out 3-2 to eventual play off winners Hull Jets in the end of season semi finals. The club has a good tradition of developing quality young players and are bound to present a decent challenge for Haggar’s team.

The Wild have only ever played Sutton 7 times overall in their history as the Sting have spent most of the time in a different division. Widnes won 3 out of the 4 league meetings in the 2017/18 season when the two teams were both in the Laidler Division and, despite Sutton finishing up as league champions, Widnes went on to beat them in the play off final.

The two teams also met twice in the NIHL North Cup during the 2019/20 season, when Sutton won both games, and once in a pre-season challenge match in 2018 which the Sting also won.

So, the all-time playing record between Widnes and Sutton stands at “Won 4 – Lost 4” with goals 21-33 in favour of the Sting. Sutton have actually won the last three encounters, although that last meeting was back in December 2019 and both teams are in a completely different position now.

The game on Sunday faces off at 5.30pm and doors open at 4.45.

Looking ahead to the new season, Wild Player Coach Richard Haggar said:

I am very pleased with home the team is coming together – it looking very strong once again, Yes, we’ve had a few changes over the summer but we have been able to put together a competitive team once again ready for the season ahead. Pre-season has been great to work with the boys in advance of the first games. Last year it was a much shorter build up due to the leagues starting up again after COVID and we never felt fully prepared but, with more time to work together, everyone is hungry to get out there, working hard and bouncing ready for Sutton this weekend to get us started.

Specifically on Sunday’s challenege game against Sutton Sting, Haggar said:

“Sutton is going to be a real test for us which is the main aim of this game for us to get our legs going, work and execute the plays we’ve worked on in training, taking our chances and getting the result. Sutton will be a hard working, organised, young team with a lot of talented players so will pose a threat to us.”

“I am, therefore, expecting a hard fought game from start to finish but also it’s a chance for the players to show me and the fans what they’re capable of doing as a team and the character they have to keep going for the full 60 minutes as Sutton will not let up.”

With regard to hopes for the season as a whole, he added:

“The expectations don’t change for us. We want to continue to grow as a D1 team, we are no longer the new boys in the league and we’ve set the bar high after last season.”

“The aim has to be trophies, playoffs and the top of the league is what we aim to achieve and it’s what the fans expect of us too. The team know that and are more than capable of steeping up and delivering but we have to be more consistent this year, work even harder and deliver.”


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