The YKK-sponsored Widnes Wild put in another spirited performance against higher league opposition in the Midland Cup but ultimately lost out 1 – 3 to Sutton Sting at Planet Ice Widnes on Sunday, writes Paul Breeze.

The Wild are taking part in the Midland Cup this season as part of Head Coach Mike Clancy’s three-year plan to build a Widnes team that is capable of competing at a higher level on a regular basis. The aim this season is to use these games to gauge the difference in levels of competition between the 2 divisions and, like previous games against Nottingham Lions and Solihull Barons, Clancy will be able to take heart from this Wild performance.

Sunday’s game had a rather odd look about it as saw Widnes playing in their “away colours” of black. This was due to a colour clash as the home team normally wears the lighter colour but Sutton arrived with only yellow shirts to play in and, in such circumstances, the home club is usually expected to change.

It is very difficult to put into words quite how close this game actually was. A 0–0 period score is quite rare in ice hockey anyway and almost unthinkable when a Laidler team takes on a team from the Moralee Division. But that is exactly what we got in the first period and, with just 1 minor penalty handed out, the opening 20 minutes was a fascinating display of flowing end-to-end hockey.

The second period continued in similar vein, with the first breakthrough not coming until the 27th minute, when former Wild player George Crawshaw opened the scoring for Sutton.

The teams were level just 4 minutes later, when Ryan Kemp equalised for the Wild and then, despite 3 powerplay opportunities during the period, Widnes were unable to build on this and take the lead. With the score standing at a tantalisingly close 1 – 1 at the second period break, both sides still had lots to play for.

The third period was just as tense, with both teams having chances. Sutton edged into the lead on 46 minutes but, with 14 minutes still to play, the Wild looked comfortable and there was still time for them to come back.

Unfortunately, Widnes picked up a string of minor penalties in the latter stages of the period, which left them under pressure at the back and a powerplay goal for the Sting with just 3 minutes left to play left the Wild with too big a mountain to climb.

Despite the 1-3 defeat, this really was an excellent performance by the Wild against higher League opposition and was highly entertaining to watch.

With such a low-scoring game, it was quite fitting that both netminders received the MVP awards and Kelly Marks, the Community Fundraiser from the Wild’s chosen charity for the season, Stick ‘n’ Step, presented the accolades to the Sting’s Ben Ward and Wild’s Philip Pearson.

The Wild return to Laidler Division league action on Saturday, 2nd November 2019, away to league leaders Bradford Bulldogs and then play Altrincham Aces at home the following evening at Planet Ice Widnes.

They are without a game this coming weekend, so the spotlight firmly falls on the Wild Academy whose Under 18 and Under 11 teams have home games at Planet Ice Widnes on Saturday.

Saturday 19th October 2019: Blackburn U15 3 - Wild Academy U15 6 (U15 North Div 3)

The Wild Academy Under 15s team continued their winning start to the season with a 3 – 6 win away to Blackburn Under 15s on Saturday.

The Wild opened the scoring after just 2 minutes, with a goal from Jake Meehan and ended the first period with a 0 – 1 lead. Further goals from Adam Vigh-Yecsey and a second period hat-trick from Benjamin Fox put the Wild 0 – 5 ahead before the home side managed to score their opening goal on 27 minutes.

With a 1 – 5 lead heading into the third period, things looked good for the Widnes youngsters but 2 goals within 90 seconds of each other dragged Blackburn into contention but a well-taken short-handed goal by Wild captain Liam Eaton with just 3 minutes left to play made sure of the points.

Netminder Harry Bird – playing up an age group – put in an excellent display and deservedly picked up the MVP Award for Widnes.

The Wild Under 15s remain in 2nd place in the Junior League Under 15 North Division 3 table, with 2 wins from their 2 games so far this season. They are 2 points behind league leaders Deeside Dragons, who also have a 100% record.

The Wild Under 15s are next in action on Sunday 17th November, when they travel to face the Solihull Under 15s in the West Midlands. They are then at home for the first time this season on Saturday 23rd November, when they take on the Deeside Under 15s at Planet Ice Widnes – 7.45 pm face off.

Saturday 19th October 2019: Nottingham U18 9 - Wild Academy U18 6 (U18 North Div 2)

The Wild Academy Under 18 team put in a sterling performance in their Under 18 North Division Three game away to Nottingham Under 18s and were frustrated to come home with a 9 – 6 defeat.

This was a really close-fought game throughout and for much of the time it looked as if the Widnes youngsters were going to pick up the first win of their debut season.

Nottingham opened the scoring after 2 minutes but Widnes equalised with a goal from captain Sam Anderson just 2 minutes later. Nottingham edged ahead again but David Geroc pulled the Wild level. Widnes then took the lead with a Sam Anderson goal at 15.33 but Nottingham then equalised just 18 seconds later. This first period goal fest continued with a fourth Nottingham goal on 18 minutes and another Widnes equaliser a minute later from Charlie Evans.

At the end of an exciting first period, the score was tied at 4 – 4 and , in contrast, the second period, while full of flowing end-to-end hockey and plenty of shots, only elicited 2 goals.

Nottingham edged back into the lead on 29 minutes but Widnes equalised once again with Sam Anderson’s hat-trick goal with just 2 minutes left in the period. With the score standing at 5 – 5 after 40 minutes of play, there was still plenty to look forward to in the third period.

Sam Anderson edged the Wild ahead once again, with his fourth goal of the match just 41 seconds into the third period. However, Nottingham drew level once more 16 seconds later. The hosts edged ahead with a power play goal on 46 minutes and then extended their lead 5 minutes later.

Unfortunately, any hopes of a Wild fight back were quashed as the game was running late and had to finish before the regulation 60 minutes had been completed. A ninth goal for the hosts on 52 minutes rounded off the scoring for the evening and, despite having played superbly throughout, the Wild found themselves on the wrong end of a 9 – 6 scoreline.

Despite being heavily out-shot throughout the game – by 55 – 18 - The Wild defence and netminder Jake Lowndes put in a superb performance, which demonstrates that this newly-formed Widnes Under 18s Team is making progress with every game they play.

The Wild Under 18s sit bottom of the league table with 1 point from their 6 games to date but captain Sam Anderson is top of the scoring standings with 13 goals and 4 assists from 5 games.

The Wild Under 18s Team are at home this Saturday 26th October, when they take on the Sheffield Steel City Under 18s at Planet Ice Widnes, 7.45 pm face off.

The Wild Academy Under 11s team are also in action on Saturday, playing their first home game of the season at Planet Ice at home to Bradford Under 11s. That game faces off at 6.15 p.m. and admission to both Academy matches is free.

The Widnes Wild Women’s Team moved to the top of the WNIHL Division 1 North Table at the weekend, despite not actually setting a foot on ice.

It’s very early on in the Women’s ice hockey season, with few games having been played and this has left 4 teams level with 2 points each. In Ice hockey, teams that are tied on points are usually separated by results in games between the two teams but, as most of the teams haven’t played each other yet this season, positions are decided by goal difference instead.

With the previous leaders, Grimsby Wolves, losing to Sheffield Shadows on Saturday, their goal difference has suffered and they dropped down into third place with both Widnes and Telford overtaking them into first and second places respectively.

The Wild women’s next game isn’t until 16th November 2019, when they travel away to face Telford, who were last season’s league champions.