Graduates from the Wild Academy Joel Bark (left) and Jake Meehan (right) – seen here with Mikey Gilbert – made their senior debuts for the Wild NIHL team away at Whitley on Sunday. (photo by Jon Anderson)
Sunday 11th September: Moralee Division Whitley Warriors 4 – YKK Widnes Wild 3
The YKK sponsored Widnes Wild put in a battling performance in their first Moralee Division game of the new season but narrowly lost out 4-3 to Whitley Warriors on Sunday.
This visit to the North East was always going to be a tough trip but the new-look Wild team gave a good account of themselves and the final outcome remained undecided until the final moments.
The team demonstrated their continued commitment to developing young players by naming Jake Lowndes as back up- netminder and giving full senior debuts to Joel Bark and Jake Meehan who both played for the Wild Under 18 team last season. Meehan made history by being the first fully trained Widnes Academy player to go on to play for the Wild senior team.
There was also a Widnes debut for Alex Mitchell, a 20 year Bradford player with an impressive youth hockey record behind him.
Despite a frenetic start –with chances at both ends – the first period remained goal-less but it was the hosts who came up more fired up for the second period and they edged into a 3-0 lead by the midway point of the game.
Widnes began to fight back and their constant pressure forced the Warriors into conceding penalties. They were handed a 5 on 3 powerplay and made the most of the advantage with a Dani Haid goal to open the Widnes account for the night.
Another Wild goal – this time from Joey Coulter – narrowed the deficit even further with less than a minute to go in the period and the score stood at a tantalisingly close 3-2 with 20 minutes left to play.
Whitley put the Widnes goal under siege for the opening phase of the third period but were unable to make a breakthrough due to stubborn Wild defending and a superb display by netminder Miles Finney.
With 10 minutes left on the clock Widnes equalised with a goal from outstanding young prospect Rhys Edwards which, aged just 16 years and 99 days on the day of the game, makes him both the youngest player ever to play in an NIHL match for the Wild as well as the youngest ever goalscorer.
This prompted the Wild to push forward in search of a winner but, unfortunately, they got caught out at the back and Whitley re-took the lead with 5 minutes left to play.
There were chances for both teams in a frantic last few minutes – as the Warriors tried to make certain of the result while Widnes battled to try and force a last ditch equaliser to take the game into overtime – but the home side held out to secure the 4-3 win.
The Wild are next in action next Sunday 18th September when they travel to face Nottingham Lions at the National Ice Centre in the Lace City – face off 7.15pm – and are then at home the Sunday after that – 25th September – when they take on Whitley Warriors at Planet Ice Widnes.
The Planet Ice rink in Widnes was closed for a few days last week to have a new ice surface laid ready for the new ice hockey season. Unable to use the ice for their usual training slot, the Wild players were given a gruelling off-ice workout instead at the nearby Terry Spencer Boxing and Fitness Centre.
MEMORIAL GAME FOR MURDERED POLICEWOMEN
North west ice hockey fans may be interested to know that there will be a memorial game played at Altrincham on Saturday 17th September to mark the 10th anniversary of the deaths of two Greater Manchester Policewomen, Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone, who were murdered in a gun and grenade ambush while on duty back on 2012.
The memorial match will be played between the “Peelers” team – which is made up of current and former members of police forces from across the north of England, along with other constabulary support staff – and the South Wales Police “Enforcers” team, who are based in Cardiff.
Former GB international and Manchester Storm defenceman Paul Swindlehurst – who is now a PC with Greater Manchester Police – will be taking part in the game, along with a number of other former league players.
The memorial game faces off at 6pm at Planet Ice Altrincham on Saturday and tickets cost £6.50 for adults and £4.50 for children. Proceeds from the game and will be shared between 2 separate charities – the PC Nicola Hughes Memorial Fund & The Police Treatment Centre.
BRITISH PARA ICE HOCKEY PLAY OFFS
The British Para Ice Hockey end of season play offs were held at Planet Ice Widnes over the weekend – returning after a two year absence caused by the Covid Pandemic
The top four teams in the league – which was played over the summer months – met in two semi finals on the Saturday and then in a 3rd place game and play off final on the Sunday.
The semi-finals ran pretty much to league form with league champions Cardiff Huskies beating Sheffield development side the “Steelstings” 5-1 and Sheffield’s first team – the Steelkings – despatching the Widnes-based Mayhem team 9-0.
The Mayhem secured third place overall with a 10-0 win over the Steelstings in the bronze medal game and Cardiff made it a league and play off “double” by beating the Steelkings 6-1 in a highly entertaining final.