Ice Hockey: Widnes Wild endure mixed fortunes

Widnes Wild celebrate.

Written by Paul BreezePhotos by Geoff White

Saturday, March 12: Solway Sharks 9 – Widnes Wild 3Sunday, March 13: Widnes Wild 8 – Solihull Barons 4

Widnes Wild consolidated their third place position in the Moralee Division table with a weekend that saw a 9-3 defeat away at league leaders Solway Sharks on Saturday and then an 8-4 win over fellow play-off hopefuls Solihull Barons at Planet Ice Widnes on Sunday.The loss away in Scotland to the runaway “champions elect” was always on the cards but the game against Solihull was a real “4 pointer” and the Wild now sit clear of the Barons on points, and with a game in hand heading into the final furlong of the league season.

In the game at Solway on Saturday, the first period started off pretty even with the Sharks taking the lead on 7 minutes and Liam Charnock equalising for the Wild just 90 seconds later. Solway edged ahead again with a delayed penalty goal on a hooking call on 13 minutes and went on to lead 3-1 at the first period break.A fourth goal for the Sharks five minutes from the restart was cancelled out by a Tom Stubley goal but any hopes of a Widnes fightback were dashed when Joe Greaves got into a fight and was ejected from the game for kneeing. Solway scored on the resulting powerplay and a further goal late in the period saw them lead 6-2 after 40 minutes of play.

Three unanswered Sharks goals early in the third period put the game well and truly out of Widnes’ reach and a Matty Barlow strike with 10 minutes left to play rounded off the action for the night.

Ice Hockey: Widnes Wild endure mixed fortunes

The home game on Sunday saw Solihull take the lead after three minutes and it took until the 15th minute for the Wild’s Latvian import Vlads Vulkanovs to fire in the equaliser. Solihull hit back with two quick goals late in the period slightly against the run of play and led 1-3 at the first break.Three straight goals in the second period – two from Player / Coach Richard Haggar and one from Mikey Gilbert - edged Widnes into the lead for the first time by the half way point of the contest – but Solihull kept battling away and tied the game at 4-4 with one period left to play.

The Wild upped their game considerably in the last period and threw the proverbial kitchen sink at the Barons – outshooting them by 24 to 10 in the final 20 minutes.The pressure paid off as three more goals from Vulkanovs (to give him an impressive four in the game) and one from Dani Haid saw Widnes coast to an 8-4 victory, which gave them a clean sweep over Solihull in the four league meetings this season and also handed them the initiative in the battle for the end of season play off places.

Vulkanovs’ four-goal haul means that he remains the top goal scorer in the Moralee Division for the season so far with 30 strikes in 19 games Solway’s Peter Gapa and Nottingham’s Zachary Yokoyama are joint second with 27 goals each. Gapa leads the scoring standings in terms of overall points with 52, while the Wild’s Richard Haggar has the highest number of assists and currently sits in third in the list with 12+33=45.The Wild are away in East Lancashire next Sunday, March 20 when they take on North West rivals Blackburn Hawks – 6pm face off. They then have two home games the following weekend – against Blackburn on Saturday, March 26 and Billingham on Sunday, March 27.

A special “double header” ticket offer has been made available for fans to be able to watch both home games that weekend at a reduced price. The double header weekend ticket will cost £17.00 for adults and £10.00 for children and will cover both games. This represents a saving of £5 on the normal cost of two games for adults and £2 for children.The special “Weekend” tickets must be purchased in advance, either in person from the Box Office at Planet Ice Widnes or via the online booking system. More information can be found on the Wild club website at www.widneswild.co.uk.

The Widnes Wild club showed their support for the Ukraine at their home game against Solihull Barons on Sunday by illuminating the exterior of the Planet Ice rink in the blue and yellow colours of the Ukrainian flag and by playing the Ukrainian national anthem before the game.An ice hockey stick signed by all the players was raffled off and a total of £327 was raised to be donated to the Red Cross appeal for the embattled nation. In a separate non- club related venture, former Wild team manager Jon Anderson is driving a one-man aid convoy with a van full of donated medical supplies, blankets and food across to the Polish / Ukrainian border where the goods will be distributed via local aid organisations.

Sunday, March 13Kingston Diamonds 15 - Widnes Wild Ladies 0The Widnes Wild Ladies team had a difficult trip to Humberside in the Women’s Premier League on Sunday, suffering a 15-0 drubbing at the hands of the Kingston Diamonds.Kingston opened the scoring after just 45 seconds and were leading 6-0 by the first period break. Six more unanswered goals followed in the second period and three more in third.In fairness to the Wild women, all but one of the Kingston goals were scored by players who also play regularly for the Diamonds Elite League team, so this was hardly an even-sided encounter.Many of the Widnes players are in their first ever season of competitive hockey and very few others have much experience at WPL level. One positive note from the game was that netminder Charlotte Jackson managed to turn away an incredible 68 of the 83 shots that she faced during the 60 minutes.The Wild Ladies team are at home on Sunday, March 20 when they take on the Queen Bees at Planet Ice Widnes, 4.15 pm face off.

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