|Jonathan Williamson scored an all-important Wild equaliser against Nottingham (Photo by Ste Cunningham)
17th September 2023 – NIHL Moralee Division: YKK Widnes Wild 4 – Nottingham Lions 3 (OT)
THE Widnes Wild NIHL team staged a dramatic fightback to win both points with a 4-3 overtime victory over Nottingham Lions at Planet Ice Widnes on Sunday.
This was the Wild’s first Moralee Division game of the season, following on from back to back challenge match wins over lower league Telford Tigers2 and was a significant test for player coach Joey Coulter’s new look squad.
It was highly entertaining to watch throughout, very closely contested, and could really have gone either way.
The first period played out goal-less and it took until the 24th minute for the first breakthrough to come. Despite Widnes having the edge on shots on goal in the early stages, it was the visitors who scored first with a shorthanded strike while the Wild were pressing forward on a hooking powerplay.
The Wild outshot the Lions by almost 2 to 1 during the second period, but a stream of minor penalties stopped them building up any kind of momentum and Nottingham struck again – on a powerplay - with just 5 seconds left on the clock to take a 0-2 lead into the second break.
Home fans finally got something to cheer about 6 minutes into the third period when Nathan Britton fired the puck home to open the Wild account for the evening.
Things began to get niggly after this and some heavy checks were dealt out by both teams. Rhys Edwards took particular exception to a check from behind and the influential youngster picked up a 5+game major penalty for fighting and missed the remainder of the match.
If anything, this fired the Wild team up all the more and just 60 seconds later, the scores were tied with an equaliser from Jonathan Wilkinson, leaving it was much “game on” with 10 minutes left to play.
Nottingham edged back into the lead again on 53 minutes on a powerplay punishing the Edwards penalty but, undeterred, the Wild kept pushing forward and their efforts were rewarded with another equaliser on 56 minutes with a goal from Matty Barlow.
The score remained at 3-3 at the end of the regulation 60 minutes playing time so an additional period of sudden death overtime was played to decide a winner.
Overtime is played with just 3 players against 3 on the ice and is fast moving and very tense. With a single “sudden death” goal deciding who wins the match there is everything to play for - and no room for error!
Both teams had their chances in overtime and the unbearable tension around the rink was racked up even further as both sides called 30 second time outs to discuss strategy. But, just as it looked as if the game might have to go to a penalty shoot out, and with just 90 seconds left on the clock, the Lions picked up a penalty for high sticks.
If a penalty is awarded in overtime, rather than playing on with just 2 skaters, the opposing team is allowed to bring on an extra player so Widnes had a 4 on 3 man advantage in these crucial remaining seconds of the game.
In the ensuing powerplay, with just 43 seconds left on the clock, Kyle Carruth slotted the puck home to give Widnes a dramatic overtime win.
The result means that the Wild get 2 Moralee Division points for the win, while Nottingham get a single point for an “overtime loss”.
The Wild are next in action this Saturday 23rd September when they make the long journey to the North East to face the Whitley Warriors – 7pm face off - and are then at home the following night when they take on North West rivals Blackburn Hawks at Planet Ice Widnes, 5.30pm face off.
The Halton Huskies recreational team have a challenge match away to Deeside-based Connah’s Quay Cobras on Sunday – face off 8.30pm. Admission is free.