WIDNES Wild made a successful start to the new season with an impressive 8-3 victory over NIHL South team Bristol Pitbulls in a thrilling challenge match at Silver Blades Widnes on Sunday, writes Paul Breeze.

It was the first opportunity for Wild fans to see player coach Ollie Barron’s new look Widnes team and most of the new summer signings were on display, including netminder Phil Crosby – who won the league title last season with Blackburn Eagles- Matt Barlow from Bradford, Mikey Gilbert - who had been Altrincham Aces top goalscorer last season - and new Latvian import Elvis Veldze.

After a tense opening phase where both teams tested each other out, it looked as if the tall player from the Baltic was going to get his Wild debut off to dream start when, after 3 minutes, he found himself on a breakaway and unopposed bearing down on the Pitbulls net. His shot beat the netminder but hit the crossbar and bounced out again.

When the first goal of the game eventually came – after 10 minutes, it came from the stick of Wild player coach Ollie Barron and Elvis had to wait until the 18th minute when his first goal for the club doubled the advantage. A powerplay goal for Bristol in the last minute of the period pulled them back to 2-1 at the first break.

The second period continued in similar vein to the first with another brace of goals for the Wild – scored by Veldze after 25 minutes and then a fantastic shorthanded effort by Barron some 10 minutes later.

A powerplay goal just 10 seconds from the restart was enough to keep the Pitbulls in contention and with the scores standing at 4-2 at the end of the second period, it looked as if there was plenty still to come in final 20 minutes.

Two goals early in the third period – a hat trick goal, from Veldze and then a great strike from “captain for the night” Stuart Brittle pretty much put the game beyond the Pitbulls.

They did pull the game back to 6-3 with 12 minutes still left to play but a brace from Nick Manning – the first just 30 seconds after the Bristol goal and then a second after 56 minutes – rounded off the scoring for the evening.

Wild’s Danny Bullock took a nasty knock against the boards in the first period and had the leave the ice injured. A subsequent x-ray showed that he had broken his collarbone, which suggests that he will be out of action for several weeks.