The YKK Widnes Wild made the trip across the border to face local derby rivals Deeside Dragons in their final league game of the 23/24 season. Following the narrow 4-5 defeat just 7 days prior on home ice, the Wild looked to slay the Dragons but fell short 6-1 to Deeside, leaving them on a 7-game loss streak.


Widnes travelled with a squad of 16+2, including Wild academy prospect #12 Luke Alston who returned back into the lineup. However, forward #5 Rhys Edwards missed out due to a clash of fixtures, whilst both #84 Tom Jackson and #20 Bez Hughes remained on the injury list. Bradford 2-way netminder #29 Jake Lowndes was given his first NIHLD1 start of the season, backed up by recent regular #30 Phil Pearson.


Deeside meanwhile lined up with a healthy 19+2, as #33 MJ Clancy returned back into the squad. However, they missed import #79 Petr Valusiak from the previous weekend’s roster. Former Widnes goaltender #39 Matt Croyle was once again guarded the pipes for the Dragons, whilst #94 Jace Gledhill sat on the bench.

1st period –

Deeside won the initial face-off and immediately cycled the puck around the Widnes zone in search of an early goal. However the Wild claimed breakaways of their own, but both sides failed to post the puck past the line. The Dragons then found the opening goal at 5:47 after #5 James Parsons weaved the puck under Lowndes from close range, assisted by #15 James Shaw.


Widnes then immediately jumped on the attack, which resulted in tensions spilling after player-coach #63 Joey Coulter was checked from behind in the Deeside crease. This lead to both #39 Matty Barlow and #22 Karl Bacon sitting at 8:30 for roughing and cross-checking respectively. Deeside were awarded the first power-play opportunity of the evening after #46 Alex Mitchell was handed a tripping penalty at 11:37.


Wild’s #63 Joey Coulter was once again checked in the Dragons zone, this time by #61 Jared Dickinson along the boards, as he made a breakout chance for a short-handed Widnes side. Thankfully, he returned back to the away bench with the help of Barlow and Massie. The Dragons then managed to double their tally on the man advantage through #55 Ross Kennedy at 13:02. #55 Ross Kennedy who picked up the loose puck and fired it wide of Lowndes’ catcher, despite him making several saves prior in the crease.


Deeside’s #92 Joe Greaves picked up a tripping penalty at 17:07, giving Widnes a chance to reduce the deficit late in the 1st period. Wild fired a flurry of shots on Croyle, but the Dragons carried a 2 goal lead into the middle frame.


2nd period –

Deeside came out with intent to extend their lead, but several stops by Lowndes denied them the opportunity. Wild also created chances through Thomson and Carruth although they failed to time the perfect shot. Dragons’ top points scorer #78 Brodie Jesson claimed the 3rd goal for his side at 25:30, via #55 Ross Kennedy and #12 Jakub Hajek, following a scramble in the crease after Lowndes spilled the initial shot.


Just 20 seconds later, Deeside extended their lead to 4-0 as #15 James Shaw let one rip at 25:50 to send the water bottle flying, assisted by #5 James Parsons and #91 Marc Lovell. However, #18 Ryan Jones put his side at risk of conceding at 27:36, after he held Coulter’s stick on the breakaway, resulting in a holding call. Widnes failed to punish the Dragons as they returned to full-strength unscathed.


Deeside found themselves short-handed once more as #72 Chris Jones sat for interference at 31:28, following an elbow to Harper’s head at centre ice. A further penalty for captain #13 Matt Wainwright for hooking, left the Dragons with a double penalty kill for 8 seconds. However, Widnes failed to reduce the deficit on both occasions.


The penalty box was filled again at 35:44 as #63 Joey Coulter sat for an initial tripping call and #55 Ross Kennedy was handed an embellishment penalty following the collision. Deeside’s leading goal-scorer #78 Brodie Jesson capitalised on a clearance mistake by #18 Johnathon Williamson at 36:18, firing the puck top-corner to claim a 5th goal for the Dragons. Widnes continued to apply pressure in the Deeside zone, but failed to claw back a goal before the final period.


3rd period –

Widnes returned for the final period on a man advantage after former Wild player #92 Joe Greaves received a 5+game penalty before stepping onto the ice. Despite numerous shots on #39 Matt Croyle, a strong Dragons defensive unit prevented Widnes opening the scoring for the first quarter of the period. D-man #18 Johnathon Williamson eventually found the first goal for Wild at 45:42, sending the puck over Croyle following a pass from Coulter behind the net.


Less than a minute later, the derby tensions well and truly bubbled over, resulting in #88 Kyle Carruth and #55 Owen Rae for Widnes, plus #75 Jason Burgess and #72 Chris Jones for Deeside all sit 5 minutes for fighting at 46:37. Both sides then took several minutes to re-gain a grasp of the game as the score remained at 5-1. Both #11 Will Harper and #18 Ryan Jones were then sent to the box at 52:30 after a battle along the boards, leaving play 5on5.


The final goal for Deeside came from import #12 Jakub Hajek, assisted by #78 Brodie Jesson at 54:01, after a low shot was tipped and deflected past the line by Lowndes, posting the Dragons 5 goals clear once more. Another set of co-incidental penalties were handed out to #17 Andrew Hopkins and #85 Oli Howells at 55:07 for holding. Widnes created several chances in the final minutes, eager to reduce the deficit, but failed to find the perfect shot allowing Deeside to claim the 6-1 victory in the final league game.


MVPs were awarded to netminder #29 Jake Lowndes for his superb effort in-between the pipes for Widnes. Meanwhile, #78 Brodie Jesson earned the title for Deeside, racking up a further 3 points on the night.

Officials: Ryder, MacKinnon, Fielden


Following Sunday night’s results, YKK Widnes Wild are set to face the 2nd place Solihull Barons in the playoff quarter-finals which take place this weekend. It has been confirmed that Widnes will play Solihull at home in Planet Ice Widnes on Saturday 30th March with a 5:30pm face-off. They will then travel South for the 2nd leg against the Barons in Planet Ice Solihull on Sunday 31st March with a 7pm face-off.


STATS – (2-0) (3-0) (1-1)


Widnes Wild: Johnathon Williamson 1+0, Joey Coulter 0+1, Matty Barlow 0+1


Jake Lowndes – (13/11/10) 34 shots


Deeside Dragons: Brodie Jesson 2+1, James Parsons 1+2, James Shaw 1+1, Ross Kennedy 1+1, Jakub Hajek 1+1, Andy McKinney 0+1, Marc Lovell 0+1, Cade King 0+1


Matt Croyle – (9/15/9) 33 shots


Article written by Fleur Tobin