Monday 29 April 2024

Wild Academy Round Up - 27th & 28th April

The Widnes Wild Academy junior teams had a mixed weekend, winning one, drawing one and losing two of the four games that were played across the age groups.

The Under 18A team won 2-3 away to Telford on Saturday while the Under 16s drew 3-3 away to Deeside.  The Under 18B team lost 8-6 away to Deeside on Sunday and the U16s lost 9-2 away to Manchester.

This weekend sees the Wild Academy U16s at home to Leeds on Saturday 4th May at Planet Ice Widnes – 4.20pm face off - and the Under 18B team at home to Leeds straight afterwards. The Under 10s have a 4 team cross ice tournament at home on Sunday starting at 4.15pm, with the Under 18B team at home to Sutton at 5.45pm. The Academy Under 12 team travel to play Coventry on Sunday.

Admission is free for all spectators to Wild Academy home games at Planet Ice Widnes and fans are encouraged to go along and support the stars of the future.

Match Report: DMUK Widnes Wild Women 2 – Sheffield Shadows 2 (WNIHL Div 2N)

Wild Women MVP v Sheffield Natalie Buckles (Photo by Paul Breeze)

Sunday 28th April – WNIHL Div 2N: DMUK Widnes Wild Women 2 – Sheffield Shadows 2

The DMUK Widnes Wild women had to make do with one point instead of two after the Sheffield Shadows snatched a 2-2 draw in a dramatic finish at Planet Ice Widnes on Sunday.

With the Shadows having won the corresponding away game back in November by a single goal, this game was also going to be a close one and it turned out to be one of the tensest encounters seen at the Widnes rink this season.

The Wild women took the lead with a goal from Jemma Brown in the 6th minute and despite numerous chances for both sides, the score remained 1-0 at the first period break.

Sheffield moved up a gear in the second period – outshooting the Wild by more than 2 to 1 - and this pressure was rewarded with an equalised goal in the 24th minute. However, Widnes bounced back and Phoebe Patient edged the Wild Women back in front with just 28 seconds to go in the second period, handing the home side a rather precarious 2-1 lead.

The third period was fascinating to watch with plenty of end to end hockey as the Wild women looked to extend their lead and Sheffield sought to draw level again. The atmosphere around the rink was electrifying and the pressure built up as the clock ticked slowly down.

With two minutes left to play, the period remained goal-less and it looked as if the Wild Women might be able to hang on to their slender lead and record their first home win since January.

But then it all went wrong. A slashing penalty given at 58.26 meant that Widnes, at best, would have to play out the rest of the game a player short. Sheffield called a timeout at this point and replaced their netminder with an extra attacker meaning that Widnes had to defend the ensuing face off in their defensive zone with 4 players against 6.

Although this meant that the Shadows goal was undefended – and a well placed place shot out of defence might have settled the game with an empty net goal - the Wild Women found themselves under so much pressure at their own end that that opportunity never arose.

Sheffield surrounded the Widnes goal, determined to make the most of their two player advantage and the tactic paid off when netminder Ellie Green - clearly unsighted due to the sea of grappling bodies directly in front of her – was beaten by a close range shot with just 27 seconds left to play.

Widnes – now back to full strength after the goal wiped out the penalty – pushed forward to try and snatch a late winner but the clock ran down and the game finished as a 2-2 draw.

The Wild Women’s Most Valuable Player awards for this season have been sponsored by Lucy London - Poet In Residence for the 5th year in a row and consist of goodie bags containing a limited edition MVP teddy bear and a selection of Body Shop products provided by Running Mum Beauty. The awards were presented by match volunteer Anthony Stock and went to Hayley Reynolds for Sheffield and Natalie Buckles for Widnes.

The Wild Women are next in action on Sunday 12th May for their last match of the season when they take on Leeds Roses at Planet Ice Widnes, 4.25pm face off.

GB Silver For Widnes Wild’s Rhys and Kyle

GB Silver medal for Kyle Carruth and Rhys Edwards (Photo by David Edwards)

Widnes Wild NIHL team players Rhys Edwards and Kyle Carruth have won silver medals with the Great Britain team at the Under 18 World Championships that were held in Sosnowiec, Poland, last week.

Great Britain finished 2nd out of the 6 nations taking part, with an impressive 4 wins from their 5 matches following a 6-4 loss to the hosts in their initial game.

Edwards scored his goal in the first game against Poland, while Carruth’s goal came in their last game, which was a 9-1 win over the Netherlands. Both Wild players ended the competition with 1 goal and 3 assists and Edwards also picked up a 5+game misconduct penalty in the last game.

The top GB scorer overall was Romford Raiders’ Brynley Capps with 6 goals and 5 assists, with Canada based Jack Clarke a close second with 6+4.

The full schedule of GB results was:

17th April: Great Britain 4 – Poland 6

18th April: Croatia 2 – Great Britain 4

20th April: Great Britain 4- Serbia 0

21st April: Romania 2 – Great Britain 9

23rd  April: Great Britain 9 – Netherlands 1

Monday 22 April 2024

Match Report: Halton Huskies 8 – Sheffield Ice Tigers 2 (Challenge Match)

Sunday 21st April 2024 – Challenge Match: Halton Huskies 8 – Sheffield Ice Tigers 2 

The Halton Huskies played their first home game of the 2024 summer season, beating the Sheffield Ice Tigers 8-2 in a challenge match at Planet Ice Widnes on Sunday.

The Ice Tigers took the lead in the 3rd minute but a goal from Jack Davies two minutes later pulled the Huskies level and they edged in front with a goal from Jonathan Lomax after 7 ½ minutes. Two more goals  – from Jake Berry and David Hrubovsky – saw the Huskies with a healthy 4-1 lead at the first period break.

A second goal for Hrubrovsky five minutes into the second period and a strike from Matt Kohler ten minutes after that put the Huskies 6-1 ahead but a second Sheffield goal on 37 minutes served as a warning that the game was far from over.

However, the Huskies upped their game in the third period and had noticeably more of the play. They outshot the visitors by more than 3 to 1 in this final 20 minutes and the pressure was rewarded with goals for Nathan Hewitt and Valerica Florea.

After the game Huskies team manager Ste Hay said:

“It was a good all round performance, with the whole team putting in a shift. What the coach is drilling into us is finally starting to show on ice. The crowd was brilliant – a massive attendance for a rec game, which really gave all the lads a boost.”

“The Ice Tigers played a good game and battled all the way until the end of the 3rd, but they brought a short bench, which always makes the game harder. We know it'll be a different game at their place and are looking forward to the challenge.” 

The man of the match (voted by opposition) was netminder Adam Darbyshire, who turned away 25 of the 27 shots that he faced, while the Huskies’ choice of player of the match was Conor Cooper.

The Huskies are next in action on Saturday 5th May when they travel to East Lancashire to take on the  Blackburn Renegades, 4.45pm face off.  They are next at home on Saturday 25th May when they entertain the same opposition at Planet Ice Widnes, 4.15pm face off.

Match Report: Connah’s Quay Cobras 9 – Blackburn Buccaneers 5 (Challenge Match)

Mike Filek was the Cobras MVP against Blackburn 

Sunday 21st April 2024 – Challenge Match: Connah’s Quay Cobras 9 – Blackburn Buccaneers 5 

The Connah’s Quay Cobras extended their impressive winning run to 11 games with a 9-5 challenge match win over Blackburn Buccaneers at Deeside Leisure Centre on Sunday.

This was a highly entertaining game with lots of end to end action, plenty of goals and was played in good spirit throughout with very few penalties being handed out.

The game also saw Cobras debuts for three new players - Tom Wlodarczyk, Phil Hand and Artur Podracki.  

After a tense opening phase, with plenty of chances for both sides, the Buccaneers eventually opened the scoring on 13 minutes.   The Cobras equalised with a goal from Mike Filek 2 minutes later but Blackburn edged in front again before being pegged back again with a Luke Wainwright strike to level the period at 2-2.

The second period was just as closely contested and Connah’s Quay took the lead for the first time in the game with Filek’s second goal of the night on 23 minutes.

A goal from Slavomir Sykora on 28 minutes gave the Cobras a 2-goal lead at the mid-point of the game but this was reined in by 2 Blackburn strikes  to leave the score at a finely balanced 4-4.  A goal from Louie Bailey with just 53 seconds on the clock fired the Cobras back in front, handing them a slender 5-4 lead with one period left to play.

Connah’s Quay pulled away in the third period and goals from Sykora, again, Artur Podracki and Sam Plant put daylight between the two teams for the first time.

A goal for Blackburn with 5 minutes left to play narrowed the score to 8-5 but a hat trick strike from Sykora straight from the restart rounded off the scoring for the game.

The Cobras are next in action Sunday 5th May when they take on the Newcastle Predators in a top of table clash in the Summer Classic Cup at Deeside Leisure Centre. Face off is at 8.30pm and admission is free for all spectators. 

Widnes Wild Academy Round Up - 20th / 21st April

Widnes Wild Academy Under 16 team (Photo by Paul Breeze)

The Widnes Wild Academy junior teams had a mixed weekend, winning one and losing two of the three games that were played across the age groups.

The Academy Under 16 team beat Sutton U16s 8-5 at Planet Ice Widnes on Saturday while the Under 18A team lost 0-12 to Sheffield U18s straight afterwards. On Sunday the Under 14 team lost at home 6-7 to Hull U14s. 

Also on Sunday, the Wild Academy Under 10 team took part in a 4 team cross ice tournament away at Altrincham where they took on the home side as well as teams from Deeside and Blackburn.  Cross ice games are played purely for fun and no match scores or player stats recorded.

This weekend sees the Wild Academy U18s away to Telford on Saturday 27th April – 7pm face off. The Under 16s are away to Manchester on Sunday, 3.45pm face off and the Under 18B team away to Deeside (4.35pm). 

Wild Women v Sheffield Preview

Preston Gennoe is the Wild Women’s top scorer so far this season (Photo by Brian Noble)

The DMUK Widnes Wild women’s team play their first game in over a month when they take on Sheffield Shadows this Sunday 28th April at Planet Ice Widnes, 4.25pm face off.

The Wild women have had a bit of an “up and down” season and have narrowly lost their last two home games – to league champions Caledonia Steel Queens and play off contenders Telford – and will be keen to bounce back from those defeats.

Sunday’s opponents Sheffield are above Widnes in the league table with 6 wins from their 10 games to date, as opposed to the Wild’s 4 wins from the same number of games.  The away game in Sheffield back in November was very close and saw the Wild women fight back from being 5-1 down early in the third period to almost snatching a point in a 5-4 defeat, so there are hopes that the game on Sunday will be just as keenly contested and entertaining. 

Sheffield are in 4th place in the Division 2 North table at present and are still harbouring hopes of qualifying for the end of season Play Offs.  

The Caledonia Steel Queens have already secured the first spot in the play offs, having won the Division 2 North league title with games still to play but qualification for the second spot is still wide open with a chasing pack of 5 teams still in the running.

As the league table stands at present, the Wild Women could – mathematically, at least – still snatch second spot in the table and take the other play off berth if a rather unlikely series of events were to take place.

Firstly they would have to win both of their remaining league games – which is certainly possible - then hope that everybody else takes points off each other – which is less likely – and, finally, hope that they get a favourable decision from the League Management Committee on the allocation of points from two unplayed games that can’t be rescheduled.

With that over-complicated scenario seeming rather improbable, it looks as if the Wild Women might miss out on the Play Offs this season, which may be a blessing in disguise as there is a bit of a storm brewing in that direction.

The EIH(A) have announced that the Play Offs will take place at iceSheffield over three days on the weekend of 31st May to 2nd June. Last year they were played over the Bank Holiday weekend from Saturday to Monday - which was fine for most people - but this year, as the venue was, apparently, not available for that particular weekend, the event is being run from Friday to Sunday – with the first day being a normal working day for many players, officials and, of course, supporters.

Six semi final matches are scheduled to be played on the Friday, starting at 9am in the morning and running through until 10pm or later in the evening, and as the women’s leagues don’t officially finish until the end of May, some teams may not even know who has qualified for them until a few days beforehand. This could cause a logistical nightmare in terms of getting time off work, booking hotels and travelling to Sheffield on a busy weekday and the scheduling for this year’s event has provoked a lot of criticism from around the country. 

Team GB At Para World Championships

The GB team at Para WCs 2024 (Photo by World Para Ice Hockey)

The Great Britain sledge team had a difficult time at the Para Ice Hockey World Championships in Skien, Norway, last week, losing all 5 of their matches and being relegated to Pool C for next year’s competition.

They lost their first game – to previous Pool A team Germany - 23-1, with the only GB goal coming from Peterborough’s Gary Farmer and the assist from the Mayhem’s Karl Nicholson.

This was followed by an 18-0 drubbing at hands of host nation Norway before GB’s closest game of the tournament – a narrow 2-3 overtime defeat to France.

Two goals from Nicholson in the second period put GB in the lead after France had opened the scoring on 3 minutes but a late equaliser with just 80 seconds left on the clock sent the game into sudden death overtime.

Despite being outshot by 22 to 12 over the course, it was France who snatched the win with a game winning goal with 47s left to play.

GB’s fourth game was an 8-3 defeat to Kazakhstan with two more goals from Nicholson and a strike from Sheffield’s Ben O’Brien and the final game saw a 12 defeat to Sweden.

The week’s results overall saw Norway top the group and take the gold medal, meaning that they get promoted straight back up to Pool A, along with Germany who took the silver.

Sweden took the bronze medal but GB finished bottom of the 6-team group and will be relegated to Pool C for next year’s World Championship.

Mayhem’s Karl Nicholson finished up as GB’s top scorer for the tournament with 4 goals and 1 assist. Gary Farmer had 1 goal and 3 assists, Jon le Galloudec 3 assists, Ben O’Brien 1 goal and Stacey Quirk 1 assist.

Nicholson, le Galloudec, Farmer and Quirk all picked up one MVP award, as did the Mayhem’s Dean Lahan. 

Widnes Wild Coach Gilbert On England Duty

Widnes Wild Academy Head Coach Mike Gilbert

Widnes ice hockey coach Michael Gilbert has been appointed head coach for England junior trips to the Netherlands and the Czech Republic in the coming weeks. 

The trips are part of the England National Team Programme (ENTP) which oversees the development of promising junior players at various age groups who attend training camps and tournaments over the course of the year.

This week Gilbert is away with the England Under 15 AAA team at the Lions tournament in Most in the Czech Republic and next week he takes the Under 15 AA team to Tilburg in the Netherlands.

Domestically, Michael is the Head Coach of the highly successful Widnes Wild Junior Academy, which runs teams at Under 10, Under 12, Under 14 , Under 16 and Under 18 level. He is also a senior player with the Widnes Wild NIHL team and, when he is not doing any of that, he is also the General Manager of the Planet Ice rink in Widnes.

Monday 15 April 2024

Widnes Wild Academy Round Up – 13th / 14th April

The Widnes Wild Academy junior teams had a mixed weekend, winning one and losing two of the three games that were played across the age groups.

The Academy U14s lost 1-5 at home to Blackburn on Saturday at Planet Ice Widnes while the Under 18B team beat Nottingham 4-3. The Under 18A team lost 4-12 to Nottingham on Sunday.

This weekend sees the Wild Academy U16s at home to Sutton on Saturday 20th April at Planet Ice Widnes, starting at 4.20pm and the Under 18A team at home to Sheffield straight afterwards.  The Under 14s are at home to Hull on Sunday, 6,20pm face off while the Under 10s are away in Altrincham for a 4 team cross ice tournament.

Admission is free for all spectators to Wild Academy home games at Planet Ice Widnes and fans are encouraged to go along and support the stars of the future

Match Report: Connah’s Quay Cobras 12 – Blackburn Falcons 8 (Summer Classic Cup)

Captain Evan McKinney was the Cobras MVP against Blackburn

14th April 2024 – Summer Classic Cup: Connah’s Quay Cobras 12 – Blackburn Falcons 8

The Connah’s Quay Cobras maintained their position at the top of the Summer Classic Cup table with a hard-fought 12-8 win over Blackburn Falcons at Deeside Leisure Centre on Sunday.

The visitors took the lead in the 6th minute but the Cobras hit back with an equaliser from Slavomir Sykora two minutes later. A goal from Martin Rybka put the Cobras into the lead on 10 minutes and the score remained 2-1 at the first period break.

The Falcons equalised just 61 seconds into the second period and then retook the lead themselves with a third goal on 23 minutes.  Connah’s Quay levelled the scores again with a strike from Sam Plant but three more goals in a frantic few minutes saw Blackburn leading 3-6 at the mid point of the game.

The second period “goal-fest” continued with strikes from Cobras’ Louis Ellwood and Libor Krempasky to narrow the deficit to just 1 goal but Blackburn hit back with their 7th on 34 minutes.

The Cobras upped their game at this point and two unanswered goals – from Louie Bailey on 37 minutes and Rybka again on 38 – meant that the score was, remarkably, tied at 7-7 with one period left to play.

Connah’s Quay fired themselves back into the lead just 20 seconds into the third period with a goal  from Stewart Cutting and then two more goals from Rybka handed them a 10-7 lead heading into the  last 10 minutes.

A late rally saw another Blackburn strike on 52 minutes to keep things interesting, but goals from Martin Stolicny on 54 minutes and a 5th goal of the night from Rybka on 57 secured the victory for the Cobras.   

This was their third win out of three starts in this year’s competition so far and 10th win in a row overall. They lead the group table with 6 points from their 3 games,  ahead of Newcastle Predators who also have a 100% record with two wins from their two games to date.  

The Connah’s Quay team have another game this Sunday 21st April when they take on the Blackburn Buccaneers in a challenge match at Deeside Leisure Centre – 8.30pm face off.

They then return to Summer Classic Cup action on Sunday 5th May when they take on Newcastle Predators at home, also 8.30 face off.  Admission is free for spectators to all Cobras home games and they also offer a streaming service via their Facebook page for fans who aren’t able to attend in person.

Wild's Rhys Edwards In GB Call Up

Rhys Edwards in action for Widnes Wild (Photo by Steve Cunningham / Shots By Ste)

Widnes Wild NIHL team player Rhys Edwards has earned a last minute international call-up to play for the Great Britain Under 18 team at the World Championships in Poland this week.

The 17 year old had taken part in a series of selection games against France before Christmas and missed the cut for the final squad, but has now been given the opportunity to play after another player had to drop out.

He joins fellow Wild player Kyle Carruth in the squad who already has international experience, having played for the GB Under 18s last year in the World Champions in Serbia.

The GB team are playing in Division 2A of the IIHF Under 18 World Championships, which is the fourth tier of the competition.  The tournament is being held in Sosnowiec, Poland, from 17th to 23rd April with opposition from Croatia, Serbia, Romania and the Netherlands, as well as the host nation who were relegated from Division 1B last year and, as such, are expected to be favourites for the Gold Medal this time around.

Each team plays the others once each and the country that finishes top of the group will be promoted to Division 1B for the 2025 tournament. 

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.

Mayhem Players At Para World Championships

Five members of the Widnes–based Mayhem sledge team are away in Norway this week with the Great Britain team taking part in the 2024 World Para Ice Hockey Championships.

Mark Colquitt, Karl Nicholson, Dean Lahan and Felicity Gregory, along with Canadian Peggy Assinck who is Head Coach are part of the 18-strong squad that is competing in Pool B of the championships in Skien from the 15th-20th April.

Great Britain are up against Norway and Germany, who were relegated from the A-Pool last year, as well as Sweden, Kazakhstan, and France in the six-team tournament. Each team plays the others for 5 games in all and the top two teams in the final group table will be promoted to the elite Pool A for next year’s World Championships.

The GB team hold their regular training sessions at the Planet Ice rink in Widnes and they were also able to have some extra sessions with the Sheffield Steelkings team prior to flying out to Norway.

Peggy Assinck said of the preparations: “We have had monthly camps leading up to the World Championships and last weekend’s was a great final camp where we were really able to bring all the hard work and training together. I am really pleased to see all our athletes working so hard to improve their skills and hockey knowledge on and off the ice. 

“We are looking strong going into the World Championship and the skill level of the entire group is improving, laying the foundation for both a sustainable programme for years to come and the ability to put a strong team forward at this year’s competition.”

Monday 8 April 2024

Widnes Wild Academy Round Up - 6th & 7th April

The Widnes Wild Academy junior teams had a successful weekend, winning two and drawing one of the three games that were played across the age groups.

The Under 12s beat Nottingham at home 8-0 at Planet ice Widnes on Saturday and the Under 14s drew 1-1 with their Lace City counterparts immediately afterwards. 

On Sunday, the Under 14s beat Leeds 8-1 at home and the Under 10 team hosted a 4-team cross ice tournament featuring Manchester, Deeside and Blackburn club. No match results or player statistics are recorded in Under 10s games.

The Under 16s game away at Deeside scheduled for Sunday was cancelled.

This weekend sees the Wild Academy U14s at home to Blackburn on Saturday 13th April at Planet Ice Widnes, starting at 4.20pm and the Under 18B team at home to Nottingham straight afterwards.  

Admission is free for all spectators to Wild Academy home games at Planet Ice Widnes and fans are encouraged to go along and support the stars of the future.

NIHL North Play Offs At Sheffield

Blackburn Hawks celebrate winning the Play Off title after beating Billingham Stars in the final.

The NIHL North Play Offs took place at iceSheffield at the weekend with the format reverting to that used in 2016 and 2017 where the semi finals and finals for both the Moralee Division and the Laidler Division were played at the same venue over the same weekend, thus providing a veritable end of season jamboree for 8 different teams and their supporters.

In the Moralee Play Off semi finals on Saturday, Billingham Stars beat Whitley Warriors 3-1 to reach the Sunday final with Blackburn Hawks beating Solihull Barons 5-4 to take the other berth.

The Hawks put in a superb performance in the final fighting back from 3-0 down against the league champions to tie the match 3-3 in normal time and then win the title on penalty shots, securing a cup and play off “double” for the season.  

The Laidler Play Offs saw a big shock when fourth place finishers Billingham Buccaneers beat league champions Telford 2-1 in the semi final and then went on to win the final, beating Sutton Sting on penalty shots. 

Saturday 6 April 2024

Match Report: Leeds Warriors v Halton Huskies Abandoned after 2 Periods (Challenge Match)

Halton Huskies team photo by @haganovaphoto

30th March 2024 – Challenge Match: Leeds Warriors 3 – Halton Huskies 4 (Match Abandoned)

The Halton Huskies team had their match away to Leeds Warriors abandoned after 40 minutes of play due to technical difficulties during the ice resurfacing between the second and third periods away at the Planet Ice rink in Leeds.

Although it was “only” a challenge match – as such friendly games are referred to in ice hockey – and with no league points or tournament positions at stake, it was disappointing for both teams as the game had been very closely fought and, standing at a finely poised 3-4, could easily have gone either way in the deciding third period.

Huskies team manager Stephen Hay said afterwards: “It was a close tough game. No goal seemed to go unanswered, resulting in a few good power plays and penalties.”

The Halton Huskies are next in action on Sunday 21st April when they take on the Sheffield Ice Tigers in a challenge match at Planet Ice Widnes, 4.15pm face off.

Tuesday 2 April 2024

King Ken Retires After 11 Years At Wild

Ken Armstrong leaves the ice after his last game for Widnes Wild (Photo by Keith & Jenny Davies)

The Widnes Wild NIHL team’s longest serving player, Ken Armstrong, has retired from playing competitive ice hockey after 11 years with the club, making his last appearance in the play off quarter final away at Solihull on Sunday.

Armstrong was one of the very first players to join the Wild when the team started back in 2013 and he took part in their very first game.  Since then he has notched up 327 appearances in Widnes colours, scoring 20 goals and 29 assists and picking up 56 penalty minutes.

“King” Ken played his junior hockey at Altrincham and then made some 80 English League appearances for the Lancashire Raptors and Blackburn Eagles teams before moving to join the, then, brand new Widnes set up. 

In his time at the Wild, Armstrong has helped the team win three Laidler play off titles (in 2017, 2018 & 2019), one league title (2019), the North 21 Cup (2021) the National Division 1 Championship (2021) and the Moralee Cup (2022), 

At the time of his retirement, Ken is the leading appearance holder for the Wild – 15 ahead of Tom Jackson, who has missed a number of games this season due to injury - and has always been a firm favourite among fellow players, team staff and fans. Aside from his obvious playing abilities, he has also acquired a cult status over the years for sitting out other players’ penalties.

In a fitting tribute, Ken was named Most Valuable Player for his final Wild match away at Solihull and was clapped off the ice afterwards by his team-mates and supporters of both sides.

Ken Armstrong playing in the Wild’s first ever game in August 2013 (Photo by Geoff White) and “multi-tasking” in the penalty box with a Planet Ice cafe pizza during the 2018 Laidler Play Off weekend (Photo by Vince Bullock).

Widnes Wild Academy Round Up - 30th/31st March

The Widnes Wild Academy junior teams had a mixed weekend, winning one and losing one of the two games that were played across the age groups.

The Under 16 team beat Leeds U16s 2-7 away on Saturday, while the Under 12 team narrowly lost 8-7 away to Sheffield.

This weekend sees the Wild Academy U12 and U14 teams both at home to Nottingham on Saturday 6th April at Planet Ice Widnes, starting at 4.20pm

The Under 16s are away to Deeside on Sunday 7th April – 6pm face off.

Admission is free for all spectators to Wild Academy home games at Planet Ice Widnes and fans are encouraged to go along and support the stars of the future.

Monday 1 April 2024

Match Report: Solihull Barons v Widnes Wild (Moralee Play Offs Q/F)

Harrison Walker in the Widnes goal against Solihull in the home leg of the Play Off Quarter Final (Photo by Keith & Jenny Davies)

Saturday 30th March – Moralee Play Offs QF: Widnes Wild 2 – Solihull Barons 5

Sunday 31st March – Moralee Play Offs QF: Solihull Barons 7 – Widnes Wild 4

The Widnes Wild NIHL team bowed out of the Moralee Play Offs at the quarter final stage after back to back defeats to Solihull Barons at the weekend, losing 2-5 at home on Saturday and 7-4 away on Sunday.

Having struggled all season long with consistency, and coming into the weekend on the back of a string of defeats, this two legged tie against the league runners up was always going to be a bit of an uphill struggle for the plucky Wild team and, in the end, despite some spirited performances, the results went the way of league form.   

In the home game on Saturday, Solihull took the lead in the 6th minute and the score remained 0-1 at the first period break.  Popular Wild enforcer Will Harper got into penalty trouble early in the second period and earned himself a 5 minutes plus game penalty for fighting. This meant that Widnes had to play a man down for a full 5 minutes and the ensuing Solihull pressure resulted in a powerplay goal for the visitors.

While the Wild weren’t playing badly, their chances on goal were few and far between and, when they did come, they weren’t able to take full advantage. Solihull outshot Widnes by a massive 26 to 3 in the second period and, were netminder Harrison Walker not in such fine form, the score would probably have been a lot higher than the 0-2 that it was at the second interval.

A third goal for Solihull three minutes into the third period – scored by former Widnes import Dani Haid – edged the Barons further ahead and then a second goal from the same player 4 minutes later effectively put the game out of the Wild’s reach. 

The Yellow Camp did eventually get something to cheer about in the 50th minute when Kyle Carruth scored the opening Widnes goal of the game and then Nathan Britton narrowed the deficit to just 2 with a strike on 57 minutes.

Any hopes of a late Widnes rally were dashed, however, as Solihull hit back with their 5th goal – a second of the night for Finnish player Filip Byf√§lt – just 24 seconds later, and that rounded off the scoring for the game. 

With a three-goal deficit to overcome in the away game on Sunday in order to have any chance of getting through to the semi finals, Widnes had to be quick out of the blocks and that is exactly what happened.

A goal from Kyle Carruth in the 4th minute of play fired the Wild into an early lead – a copy of the rare “Michigan” goal that he scored in a GB Under 18 international back in December - and the same player shocked the home crowd further into silence with a second strike just 21 seconds later.  

Solihull had most of the play in the first period, outshooting Widnes by 15 to 7, and this pressure eventually paid off with a Barons goal on 15 minutes.  The score remained Solihull 1 – Widnes 2 at the first period break (ie 6-4 on aggregate) and the Wild were clearly not giving up hope.

The second period saw much of the same with Solihull outshooting Widnes by a massive 25 to 6 but the next goal fell to the Wild when player coach Joey Coulter extended the lead to 1-3 on 27 minutes.

90 seconds later, Carruth fired in his hat-trick goal and, against all reasonable expectations, the Wild suddenly found themselves level on aggregate!

Solihull visibly upped their game after this and pulled a goal back on 31 minutes – edging themselves back into the lead over the two legs.

Just two minutes later, the Barons were awarded a rare penalty shot after the Moralee Division’s top goal scorer Niklas Ottoson was tripped on a breakaway, preventing a clear goalscoring opportunity. Logan Reid in the Widnes goal saved the resulting one-on-one attempt but the match referee wasn’t happy and ordered it to be retaken.  The second attempt was successful and Solihull pulled the score back to 3-4 on the night and 8-6 overall.

Solihull took control after this and two unanswered goals in the latter stages of the period saw them leading 5-4 at the second interval.

The third period saw Solihull once again outshoot the plucky Wild by 25 to 3 and they added two more goals to their tally on 50 and 52 minutes, including a hat trick strike for Ottoson.  Widnes were unable to find the back of the net again and the score finished 7-4 on the night to the Barons and 12-6 on aggregate.

Wild netminder Logan Reid deserves special credit for keeping out an impressive 58 of the 65 shots that he faced over the 60 minutes.

The weekend results mean that Widnes, sadly miss out on the Play Off finals weekend for the third season in a row, having also lost out to Solihull at the quarter final stage last season and Billingham Stars the year before. This will be disappointing for Wild fans of long standing who will recall that they qualified for the play off weekend every season prior to the Covid disruptions and won three titles in a row from 2017 to 2019. 

To be fair, that was - of course - in the lower Laidler Division (North 2) where the Wild were arguably a bigger fish in a smaller pond and where the top four finishers in the league automatically qualified for the finals weekend.  Playing in a higher division against superior opposition week in week out and then having to negotiate a quarter-final round seeded by league places does make qualification for the final four that bit more of a challenge.

The Moralee Play Off semi finals and final will take place at iceSheffield this Saturday and Sunday 6th and 7th April.

The other quarter final ties saw league champions Billingham Stars beat Nottingham Lions 10-1 over two legs, Blackburn Hawks beat Hull Jets 8-4 and Whitley Warriors beat Deeside Dragons 13-9. Billingham will play Whitley in the first semi final at 1pm on Saturday and Solihull take on Blackburn at 8pm.