|The Widnes Wild Academy Under 12 team at the National Play Offs in Cambridge (Photo by Hannah Walker)
The Widnes Wild Academy Under 12 team made lots of new friends - and gained some useful experience - from their first ever visit to the EIHA Under 12 National Play Offs weekend, held in Cambridge.
The Wild youngsters had previously won the EIHA Under 12 North Division, finishing 5 points clear of runners up Leeds and both teams qualified for the weekend, along with the top two finishers in the Midlands, South East and South West Divisions, divided into two groups of 4.
Widnes took on Midlands runners-up Solihull and South East runners-up Chelmsford on the Saturday, losing 1-7 and 2-6 respectively, and then played South West champions Guildford on Sunday morning, losing 0-3.
This record of 3 loses from their 3 games meant that they finished bottom of their group but it was a good learning experience for the young players - and they played against two southern teams that they had never met before.
The top two teams from the two weekend groups – Sheffield, Solihull Guildford and Slough - met up in the semi finals and Sheffield went to win the overall national title in the final.
Wild Academy Head Coach Mike Gilbert commented afterwards:
“Every team that makes it to the Nationals finals is full of talented players in all positions so it is always a tough set of games and all teams can beat each other.”
“This was the first time ever a Widnes team had won the league and also made it to Nationals so massive credit to the team and players. They worked so hard to get their and should be proud of themselves! Something like this has lots of pressure - which is something the players haven’t had to deal with before - and our focus was for the team to be calm, confident, never give up and have as much fun as they could. I can tell you the team took the points on board and they definitely had them in mind throughout the whole weekend.”
“Unfortunately we lost all 3 games. However, they were very end to end competitive games, thoroughly enjoyable for the players, and there were a lot of good points for Widnes.”
“This season has been an unbelievable one for the team and they have done themselves so proud. Also the volunteer group behind the team have done so well and put in so much effort for them. To thank you and well done to you all too!”
The Wild Academy are looking to recruit new players for the 2023/2024 season across all age groups from Under 10 to Under 18 and are holding a series of welcome sessions at the Planet Ice rink during May and June.
Separate “Learn To Play” sessions are also available for anybody new who would like to take up the sport. For more information, contact Academy Head Coach firstname.lastname@example.org