Ice hockey: Widnes Wild ends its first season in the first division
Vlads Vulkanov made it 2-1 at the Wild.
Written by Paul Breeze
Pictures of Geoff White
Saturday April 16: Billingham Stars 8 Widnes Wild 1
Sunday April 17: Widnes Wild 3 Billingham Stars 2
Widnes Wild capped off their highly successful first season in the Moralee Division with a 3-2 victory over Billingham Stars at Planet Ice Widnes on Sunday.
Sadly, that win wasn’t enough to propel them into the Play Off final weekend – to be held in Leeds next week – as they lost the first leg of that quarter-final tie 8-1 outside in the North East on Saturday and therefore collapsed. of the knockout round 10-4 on aggregate.
In the away game at Billingham on Saturday, things started badly for the Wild and only got worse as the game progressed. The Stars opened the scoring after five minutes and led 2-0 at the first break.
In fairness, Widnes had an equal share of puck possession and shots on goal, but was unable to make them count. Two more goals from Billingham early in the second period – just nine seconds apart – really put the Wild on the back foot and a fifth goal midway through the game left Widnes with a metaphorical mountain to climb in the third period.
The Wild threw the kitchen sink at the Stars goal in the final period, outscoring the hosts by a whopping 21-8, but it was again Billingham who scored the next goal in the 43rd minute to go extra lead to 6-0.
Widnes’ efforts were eventually rewarded with a strike from player manager Richard Haggar, but any hopes of a late comeback were thwarted by more impressive play from the home defence. To make matters worse, the Wild were then caught from the back as they pushed forward in an attempt to reduce the deficit heading into the home game and conceded two more goals late in the game.
The 8-1 defeat was the Wild’s first defeat after six straight wins and was their weakest goal since a 2-1 defeat at Sheffield in January. It was also the first time in five starts that Billingham had recorded a victory over Widnes this season.
Sunday’s home game was particularly tense – especially given what was at stake – and after a nervous opening from both sides, the first half ended scoreless.
Billingham took the lead with a 26th-minute power-play goal to lead 9-1 on aggregate, but Bez Hughes equalized for the Wild 3 minutes later and Latvian importer Vlads Vulcanovs edged Widnes three minutes later.
While pushing forward in an attempt to extend the lead, Widnes were caught by a shorthanded strike in the 35th minute which left the score at a finely balanced 2-2 at the second break. period.
A combination of a later than usual start due to the Laidler Play Off final being played at the rink earlier in the day and the huge task of trying to overturn a significant game deficit going left had led to a rather subdued atmosphere. around the rink, but the Wild team and the fans – as they faced the nigh-impossible task of scoring eight unanswered goals in the final period – gave one final push to end the season in style .
Those efforts were rewarded when Liam Charnock kicked the puck into the net in the 52nd minute to regain the lead and Widnes managed to hold on to the 3-2 victory. With no more matches to come, the Wild players will then be introduced at the club’s presentation night, which will take place at the Village Club in Widnes on Friday 13 May.
Tickets cost £15 each and can be purchased at the ice rink box office.
The league matches continue at the Widnes rink, however, as the women’s and junior seasons do not end until the end of May. This Sunday, April 24, the Wild Academy Under-10 team are hosting a four-team cross-ice tournament where they will face teams from Telford, Bradford and Manchester Storm.
This starts at 4.15pm and is followed at 5.40pm by a challenge match between the Wild Academy Under 16s team and Leeds Under 16s.
On Saturday the 23rd the Wild Academy Under 12 teams travel to Bradford – 4:00 p.m. face-to-face – and Manchester Storm – 6:00 p.m. departure.
Thereafter, the Widnes Wild Ladies team will play four games in May, two home and two away starting on Sunday May 1 when they take on the Bristol Huskies at Planet Ice Widnes at 4.15pm.
The Laidler Division (North 2) playoffs were held at Planet Ice Rink in Widnes over the Easter weekend. It was the third time the venue had hosted the event – although this time it was acting as a completely neutral venue as the Wild team now plays in a different division.
Saturday’s two semi-finals saw league champions Telford Tigers 2 take on Sheffield Titans in the opener and league runners-up Hull Jets take on Sutton Sting in the final match.
Both games were played in the league with Telford comfortably beating Sheffield 8-4 in the semi-finals, while Hull had a tougher job but eventually managed to overcome the Sting in a narrow 3-2 win.
In Sunday’s final, Hull beat Telford 2-1 to add the Play Off title to the league crown they won two years ago before the Covid lockdown began. Jets import Boris Giba gave Hull a narrow 1-0 lead in the first period. and Kieran Robinson doubled the advantage midway through the second.
Telford’s Oliver Hunt pulled a goal back in the 54th minute but the Humbersiders held on to claim victory. Planet Ice Rink in Widnes will also host the Womens Play Offs on the weekend of June 4-5. This will feature 10 riveting matches over two days, including the semi-finals and finals of the Women’s Elite League, Women’s Premier League and National Division 1 and the National Under-16 Final.
The participating teams have not yet been decided as the women’s season does not end until the end of May.
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