Sunday 15th January – Moralee Division
YKK Widnes Wild 4 – Blackburn Hawks 3 (OT)
The YKK-sponsored Widnes Wild staged a remarkable last minute fightback to snatch a 4-3 overtime win over the Blackburn Hawks in their first home game of the new year at Planet Ice Widnes on Sunday.
Games between the Wild and the Hawks are always keenly contested affairs and with two wins each in meetings between the two teams so far this season, this was always going to be a very close game.
First blood went to the visitors with the opening goal after just 1.40 of the game, making the most of powerplay while the Wild’s Jacob Corson-Heron was sitting out a hooking penalty.
Widnes had plenty of chances on goal themselves in the first period – outshooting Blackburn by 16 to 9 - but it was the Hawks who had the better finishing and they went 0-2 up in the 13th minute. The score remained 0-2 at the first period break and Widnes had a bit of catching up to do.
The second period continued in similar vein to the first with plenty of end to end hockey to thrill the sizeable and very vocal crowd, quite a few penalties for both sides and an almost level tally of shots on goal.
It took a full 12 minutes for the next goal to come and, when it did, it also went to Blackburn and they went 0-3 up on 32 minutes. Despite plenty of chances at both ends, the score remained 0-3 at the end of the second period and Widnes had even more to catch up and less time left to do it in!
Whatever player coach Richard Haggar said in the dressing room during the second period break, it obviously had an effect as Widnes had a much better third period. They outshot the Hawks by 20 to 10 over the 20 minutes and that increasing pressure began to pay dividends.
Will Harper fired in his first goal for the Wild on 46 minutes – a fairly rare Short Handed Goal – to give the home fans some hope and then 4 minutes later Haggar found the back of the net to narrow the score to 2-3.
There were still 10 minutes left to pay and Widnes threw the metaphorical kitchen sink at the Hawks but it was to no avail as the Blackburn defence kept them at bay. The electric atmosphere around rink became almost unbearable at the clock ticked down to the final minute of play and Widnes were faced with a last throw of the dice.
With the Wild attacking at the Blackburn end and literally just seconds left to go, Widnes pulled netminder Finney on the fly in favour of an extra skater and the tactic paid off as Corson-Heron fired in an equalising goal with just 19 seconds left on the clock.
Regulation time ended with the score at 3-3 and a further tantalising period of sudden death overtime would be required to decide the match.
That last minute equaliser seemed to have deflated the Hawks team and they never looked in the running once the over time period got going. It is 3v3 players for overtime and Widnes looked the more comfortable with the extra space on the ice, passing the puck freely and making flowing changes to keep their players fresh.
The match was decided just 58 seconds into the extra period when Nathan Parkes-Britton calmly controlled the puck in front of goal and slotted it past the Blackburn netminder.
Widnes receive 2 points for the Overtime Win while the Hawks get 1 point for having drawn at the end of regulation time.
The Wild remain in 5th place in the Moralee Division table after the weekend games, two points behind 4th place Solihull Barons who won 2-9 away at Sheffield. However, both teams have gained ground on 3rd place Billingham Stars who narrowly lost 4-3 to Deeside Dragons on Sunday and now only have a 3-point cushion over the Barons, having played more games
Widnes have a busy weekend coming up as they take on Solway Sharks on Saturday 21st January in the second leg of the Moralee Cup semi final at Planet Ice Widnes and then travel away for a crunch 4th v 5th league fixture at Solihull on Sunday.
Please note that the cup game at home on Saturday faces off at the later than usual time of 7pm, with doors opening at 6.15.