WIDNES Wild moved back up into second place in the Laidler Division table after a four-point weekend that saw them beat Coventry Blaze 6-1 away on Saturday night and then the Telford Tigers N2 team 6-2 at home at Silver Blades Widnes on Sunday, writes Paul Breeze.

The game on Saturday night at the Coventry Skydome went pretty much according to league form with the Wild looking the better side overall but the mid-table Blaze side well-organised in defence and intent on making things difficult for them.

After an early trading of attacks, Widnes finally broke through the Blaze defence and opened the scoring through Nick Manning on 15 minutes. The score remained 0-1 at the first period break but they doubled their advantage some 90 seconds after the restart with a well-taken goal from player coach Ollie Barron.

A short handed goal followed from Manning just before the midway point of the game while Widnes defenceman Andrew Turner was sitting out a holding penalty and then, with a powerplay goal from Tom Jackson in the 38th minute, the Wild looked to be cruising.

The Blaze had the last word of the second period, however, as they fired in their opening – and what would ultimately be their only - goal of the game with just 17 seconds left on the clock.

The final period saw two more goals for Widnes – the first another powerplay goal - scored this time by Stuart Brittle on 45 minutes and then a shorthanded goal by Ollie Barron scored unassisted while the Wild were a man short due to a 2+10 call on Turner.

There was a bit of a flare-up some three minutes from the end that saw Wild players Lee Kemp and Mike Mawer and the Blaze’s Zac Chamberlain all banished for the rest of the game but there was no further goal action and the game finished with a 1-6 win to Widnes.

The home game on Sunday against Telford had a special Halloween theme and spectators were entertained during the breaks by a special ghoulish dance routine by youngsters from the Wild’s resident Eclipse Street Dance Cheerleading troupe and also a display of the Widnes stars of the future in a mini-game between players from the Wild Academy.

The match itself started off as a sort of horror show as well as the Tigers broke down an early Widnes attack and skated straight to the other end of the ice and scored after just 28 seconds of the game.

The Wild managed to equalise through player coach Ollie Barron in the 6th minute but the rest of the period was incredibly tense and could have gone either way.

The tension around the rink was alleviated somewhat by a strike by Nick Manning just 48 seconds after the start of the second period to make the score 2-1 in favour of the home side. An incredible period of end to end hockey ensued during which, although the Wild marginally had the upper hand, there was no more scoring or any penalties handed out.

The Tigers were, however, looking increasingly dangerous as the minutes ticked down to the end of the second period and with 1 minute and 8 seconds left on the clock, Wild netminder Phil Crosby was hit with a powerful shot which left him dazed and also damaged his helmet.

As it would have taken a while to replace his equipment, the referee sensibly decided to end to the second period there and then and play the outstanding 68 seconds at the start of the third period.

This decision infuriated the Telford players and bench as it would give the Wild team a chance to regroup but the referee’s decision was final and they had to go along with it.

As it turned out, nothing of note happened in the last 68 seconds of the second period when they were finally played after the break and the players immediately changed ends for the start of the third period.

The Wild team upped their game considerably in the third period and out-shot the visitors by 15 to 6 in the final 20 minutes. They were rewarded with a goal by Ken Armstrong just 3 minutes into the period and then two back-to-back strikes from Latvian import Elvis Veldze. A short handed goal from Stuart Brittle with just under 5 minutes to go gave the Wild a 6-1 lead and even a late strike from the Tigers with just 42 seconds left on the clock wasn’t enough to dampen the victory celebrations.

The result was even more significant after news filtered through that league leaders Altrincham Aces had been beaten 3-5 at home by Sutton Sting the same evening, meaning that the Wild’s visit down the M56 next Sunday would give them the opportunity to close the gap at the top of the table.

Looking back at the weekend’s matches, Wild player coach Ollie Barron said:

“It was a solid weekend all round.

"We travelled to Coventry short on players to face a Blaze team with a full 4 line roster, made up of talented juniors with a mixture of more experienced NIHL players.

"We know they posed a threat, having run teams close in recent weeks, including pushing Sutton Sting to penalty shots.”

“I thought we played a true team game on Saturday night, all players played for each other and got the job done, with some nice finishing. Nick Manning took the MVP award, but also a special mention to Lee Kemp, playing out of his comfort zone as a forward, he did his job brilliantly, while also protecting his goalie late in the game, when Coventry tried to mix things up.”

“In Sunday’s game, we faced a talented Tigers team. The game was scrappy affair, with Telford being much improved since our early game in the season. They played a game to frustrate us but I was happy we stuck to our task with the game opening up in the third period.

"Overall I was very pleased with the four points this weekend and we will prepare for the Aces game in practice Thursday.”

The RTL sponsored Widnes Wild travel to Altrincham to play the Aces next Sunday 5 November.

They are away at Blackburn on Saturday 11th November and are next at home on Sunday 12 November when they face Sutton Sting in a 5.30pm face off at Silver Blades Widnes.

The Widnes Wild women’s team are in competitive action at home on Sunday 5 November when they take on Swindon Top Cats in the Women’s Premier League at Silver Blades Widnes.

The Top Cats are second in the WPL table at present, having won their first two games of the new season.

The Wild Women are 6th in the 7-team table having lost their opening game at home to Nottingham Vipers 3-5 a fortnight ago.

The game faces off at 5.30pm