WIDNES Wild go into 2018 in third place in National Ice Hockey League North Laidler Division Two.

They will have the chance to try and make up ground when they play second-placed Altrincham Aces in the first home game of 2018 on Sunday, January 7, at Silver Blades Widnes, face off 5.30pm.

The night before that they travel to Deeside Dragons, 5.45pm face off.

A 3-1 loss to Bradford Bulldogs over the festive period was their third defeat in five games.

Shaun Dippnall scored Wild's only goal, coming in the first period from a Tom Jackson assist, despite out-shooting the hosts by almost two to one throughout the match.

With Widnes having already beaten the Bulldogs twice this season - 10-0 at home two weeks previous and 5-0 away in September - it was a disappointing way to close out 2017.

Home netminder Philip Pearson put in an heroic performance and kept out all but one of the 66 shots that were fired at him.

Dippnall opened the scoring after just five minutes.

Wild had the upper hand possession-wise for most of the game but Bulldogs equalised with five minutes left to the first break.

The second period was nearly all Widnes as they besieged the Bulldogs goal, out-shooting them by 30 to 10.

Despite this onslaught, Bradford took the lead after 27 minutes and the score remained 2-1 to the hosts at the end of the second period.

With hopes of a third consecutive 'shut out' already gone, Wild replaced netminder Matt Croyle with Barry Sprakes for the third period to give him his first stint between the pipes at NIHL level and he gave an excellent account of himself, facing 12 shots and saving them all.

Once again Wild had most of the possession and two power-play opportunities late in the period amounted to nothing.

In the final minute, they even pulled netminder Sprakes in order to ice an extra attacker in the hope of scoring a late equaliser.

The move ultimately backfired as Bulldogs managed to take control of the puck and skated the length of the ice to deposit it in the unguarded net.