The Widnes Wild NIHL team had a mixed weekend with a 10-8 win over local rivals Deeside Dragons on Saturday in the M56 Cup and then a 2-4 home defeat to the same opposition in the league on Sunday at Planet Ice Widnes.
The Wild roster was boosted by the return of Rhys Edwards and Matty Barlow – both back from injury – and Damarni James after having served an EIHA suspension. Further spice was added to the encounter with former Wild players Matt Wainwright, Joe Greaves and MJ Clancy in the Deeside team along with former Widnes import Jakub Hajek.
The game on Saturday started well for the Wild with Innes Gallacher firing them into the lead with just 99 seconds on the clock.
Deeside levelled 5 minutes later but Kyle Carruth restored the Widnes advantage with a goal on 11 minutes. The Dragons equalised again on 15 minutes and then edged into the lead with just 29 seconds left in the period to lead 2-3 at the first break.
Widnes drew level with a delayed penalty goal from Carruth on 28 minutes and a second goal of the night from Gallacher two minutes later put them back in the lead. However, two more goals for Deeside late in the period handed them a 4-5 lead going into the second interval.
The third period was littered with niggly penalties but this seemed to spur the Wild on. They scored two shorthanded goals – from Conor McNulty and Matty Barlow - within an incredible 9 seconds of each other to retake the lead and then a hat-trick strike from Gallacher just 90 seconds after that finally put daylight between the two teams for the first time.
The lead didn’t last, however, and Deeside pulled the score back to 7-7 with two more goals and then edged back into the lead with a shorthanded goal of their own with 10 minutes left to play.
Luckily, Widnes still had something left in the tank and Mikey Gilbert equalised on 53 minutes, sparking a late charge.
McNulty fired in another shorthanded goal for Widnes on 58 minutes to put them back in the lead and, with the Deeside netminder removed for the last minute, Matty Barlow made sure of the win with an empty net goal with 35 seconds left on the clock.
The M56 Cup is a three-way tournament featuring the Wild, Deeside Dragons and Blackburn Hawks. Each team plays the others once home and once away and the team that finishes top of the “round robin” group wins the Cup.
The competition was cancelled last season with Deeside unable to fulfill their games due to ice time availability, after beating Widnes in the only game that was played. Instead, the Wild and the Hawks played a two team North West Challenge Cup, which Widnes won over two legs.
The Wild’s remaining fixtures in this year’s M56 Cup are:
20th Jan: home v Blackburn
3rd Feb: away @ Deeside
17th Feb: away @ Blackburn