The game opened in sensational style. Constant pressure from the Wild forwards led to an opening goal in the 2nd minute. New signing Ken Armstrong hit a rising shot from the right which flew high into the net. A series of good saves from Bristol netminder John Dibble prevented the home side going further ahead. In a rare moment of Bristol pressure, the puck went loose on the edge of the crease and Jordan Smith forced the puck home at 5.47 for a Pitbulls equaliser.
Penalties against the home side disrupted the attacking flow but in the 18th minute a fierce shot from the blue line by Wild's Tom Jackson, was well saved by Dibble.
Bristol opened the 2nd period with far more purpose, with passing amongst the forwards far more effective. Errors in the Wild defence brought several fine saves from Ruxton when under pressure from Pitbull forwards. In a rare Wild attack a brilliant glove save from Dibble prevented the home side taking a shock lead. A breakaway on the right from Ben Brown resulted in a great angled shot from Vales. Two disputed boarding penalties against Widnes led to further pressure. In the 38th minute Bristol took a lead on the powerplay when Olly Shone fired a low angled shot past Greg Ruxton.
The third period opened well for Widnes, Evans making a brilliant glove save to prevent an equaliser. Filip Supa took a heavy check in centre ice and play was delayed in the 46th minute. Wild were attacking with much more purpose twice within minutes inaccurate shooting failed to bring results with the net wide open. A breakaway from Filip Supa in the 50th minute saw his shot well saved. With just seven minutes remaining Wild saw themselves with a 5 on 3 powerplay. Further Evans saves and failure to force the puck over the line saw Bristol hold on to their slender lead. A well organised Bristol defence neutralised some frantic attacking.
This was a game that Widnes should have won comfortably but spurned chances proved costly. Ken Armstrong took the MVP for Widnes after an all action display on his season debut.
Next Saturday and Sunday Wild meet North 1 Blackburn Hawks in the final pre-season challenge games. Saturday’s game in Blackburn faces off at 17.40 and Sunday’s return in Widnes will start at 18.15. A big crowd is expected for this first ever clash between North West rivals.
Dick Gillingham ( Widnes Wild Press Liaison)