The Widnes Wild NIHL team put in two superb performances to register their first 4 point weekend of the season with a 5-3 home win against Solihull Barons on Saturday and a 2-5 away win over Deeside Dragons on Sunday.
The Barons arrived on Saturday night occupying the lofty position of second in the Moralee Division table – compared to the Wild’s seventh – and having won the 3 previous meetings between the two teams this season. The last encounter – away in the West Midlands last weekend – however, did go all the way to overtime, so the Wild certainly felt they were in with a chance in their first game of 2024.
The first period was very tense and the Barons outshot the Wild by 19 to 6 in the first 20 minutes. However, Harrison Walker was looking very solid in the Widnes goal and the home defence combined well to keep the Solihull attack at bay.
The first goal came in the 11th minute and fell to Damarni James, scoring his first goal for Widnes. The Barons eventually equalised in the 18th minute and the score remained 1-1 at the first period break.
The second period was just as close and it took until the 32nd minute for the next breakthrough. Here again, it fell to the Wild as Mikey Gilbert flicked the puck up past the Barons netminder to give Widnes a 2-1 lead. Unfortunately, the lead did not last and Solihull equalised just 2 minutes later.
A second goal of the night from James fired the Wild back in front on 36 minutes and Joey Coulter edged them further ahead two minutes later when he tapped in a rebound from a Kyle Carruth shot. This meant that the Wild led 4-2 at the second break with a hint of daylight between the two teams for the first time in the match.
In a game that was on the whole, otherwise devoid of much serious penalty box action, Kyle Carruth picked up a 5 minute penalty for elbows early in the third period and the Wild had to defend an extended 5 on 4 powerplay. They successfully weathered this storm but then succumbed to a shorthanded goal from the Barons on 51 minutes to set up a nervy finale to the game.
There were chances for both sides as the clock ticked down and the visitors pushed forward trying to force a late equaliser. Then, with just over 2 minutes left to play, Wild player coach Coulter knocked in a fumbled puck from the Solihull netminder to put the game out of the reach of the Barons and secure a 5-3 victory.