The Wild senior – NIHL - team are always very keen to help develop younger players – both through supporting the ever-swelling ranks of the Widnes Junior Academy and through the use of 2-way contracts, which allow for players under the age of 23 to have the opportunity of training and playing for teams in a higher league than their own club to gain extra ice time and experience.
16 year old Rhys Edwards joined the Wild at the start of the season on a 2-way contract with Laidler Division Bradford Bulldogs and has made a huge impact in his matches at the higher level, scoring 4 goals and 8 assists in 17 matches so far.
Kohen Taylor is an under-18 player with the highly respected Kingston (junior) development programme and has made 4 appearances for the Wild since joining on a similar basis. Kohen is the third member of his family to ice for Widnes at NIHL level, joining old brothers Reaghan - who also signed this season - and Cain who had a brief spell with the club at the start of the 21/22 season.
Widnes have also iced two 16 year old netminders this season – drafted in under special dispensation from the EIHA – as emergency back up for their starting netminder, with Bradford Under 18 player Callum Preston taking part in the North West Cup win over Blackburn Hawks and Kingston’s Gabriel Lingard taking to the Wild bench in the recent away game at Solihull.
An unusual situation occurred – in terms of Moralee Division hockey, at least - at the Solihull game when Widnes had three 16 year old players – Taylor, Lingard and Edwards - in their line up.
Talking about his surprise call up - and first experience of the Moralee Division - Lingard said:
“It was a pleasure to be able to experience that level of hockey at a younger age, it opened up my eyes to what would be possible and it gave me a nice introduction to senior level."
"Being involved with Widnes Wild has developed me as a goalie because the pace of the game is a lot faster, which means that I have to become better and read the play quicker in order to keep up. Also the shots are a lot more accurate which forces me to become better with the way I position myself in the net."
There is a huge difference in playing levels between Under 18 junior hockey and the Moralee Division and most younger players benefit from playing matches in the lower Laidler Division and using that as a stepping stone.
Another 2-way player Adam Jasecko has played regularly for the Hull Jets this season as well as icing for the Wild and Rhys Edwards has been a regular first liner in the Bradford Laidler team off the back of his performances with Widnes.
Current Wild Academy Under 18 player Jake Meehan has also made appearances for the Wild senior team this season, as has Academy graduate Joel Bark - who is otherwise signed with Sutton Sting – and, with a promising crop of young players working their way up through the age groups at junior level, things are looking good for the future of the Widnes club.