Monday 15 April 2024

Widnes Wild NIHL Season Review

Player / Coach Joey Coulter was the Wild’s top points scorer for the season (Photo by Steve Cunningham / Shots By Ste)

With the NIHL North season now over, the Widnes Wild organisation will probably look back on the 2023/24 Moralee Division campaign with a certain air of disappointment.

While their fierce local rivals made significant progress this season – with Blackburn Hawks finishing 3rd in the league table and winning the Moralee Cup, Moralee Play Offs and M56 Cup, and Deeside Dragons also having a better season than many people might have expected with a 4th place finish - the Wild found themselves languishing in 7th place in the table, a distant 18 points adrift of 6th place Hull Jets, who were new boys in the division this year.

For a club that has got used to winning things on a regular basis – with a league title and three play off crowns during the Laidler period, two trophies during the Covid lockdown and a Moralee Cup and North West Cup in more recent seasons – it must be hoped that this year’s record of just 9 wins from their 32 league games (three of those coming as overtime wins over teams at the bottom of the table) and a terrible 9-match losing run at the tail end of the season is just a minor blip and that the good times will soon return.

To be completely fair, the Wild did pick up some early season victories over teams such as Whitley Bay, Solihull and Blackburn, which raised hopes of a promising mid-table tussle with those teams - and they also won 3 of their 6 meetings with fierce local rivals Deeside Dragons – but, the general trend saw results tailing off over the course of the season. 

Widnes did not have the best of luck during the season, either, and their form was affected by injuries to key players like Rhys Edwards, Matty Barlow, Andrew Hopkins and captain Tom Jackson. Summer signing Damarni James also missed 10 games when he was handed a lengthy ban for an incident in a match against his former club Blackburn early in the season.

But some of their problems have certainly been self-inflicted. There was the widely reported case of two long serving players being released by text message, which served to show the club in a bad light, and the over-reliance on players on two way contracts has been criticised by some Widnes fans as having an effect on the consistency of team selection over the course of the season. 

But credit where credit is due.  Despite missing a number of games due to injury, Matty Barlow ended up as the top goal scorer for the Wild in the Moralee Division with 13 goals from 25 games while player coach Joey Coulter  - who played in all 32 league games - finished as the Wild’s top overall points scorer with 7 goals and 24 assists.  

Adding in challenge matches, M56 Cup games and the Play Off Quarter finals as well, for a final total of 40 matches in all, Barlow actually finished the season with 17 goals overall – a tally that was matched by GB Under 18 international Kyle Carruth - of “Michigan Goal” fame – after he hit 4 of the Wild’s 6 goals in the two-legged play off quarter finals.

Honourable mentions for the season also go to Mikey Gilbert who contributed 12+20 in 39 games to finish third in the standings and Nathan Britton who – like Coulter - played in all 40 games and was stand in captain during Tom Jackson’s injury absences.

18 year old netminder Luca Tessadri topped the Wild goaltending standings for the season with a 4.39 Goals Against Average for the 20 games that he played in and he even had a goal credited to him – which is very unusual in ice hockey for a goalie.

Widnes also gave Moralee Division debuts to young netminders Logan Reid and Jake Lowndes over the course of the season.


The NIHL season may be over for another year but there is still plenty of exciting ice hockey to be seen at Planet Ice Widnes over the coming months.

The Riverside Raiders are once again taking part in the Summer Classic Cup  and the Mayhem Sledge team are competing in the British Para Ice Hockey League.

The Halton Huskies have an interesting series of challenge games arranged against other recreational teams, with the first taking place against Sheffield Ice Tigers this Sunday 21st April – 4.15pm face off.