The YKK Widnes Wild faced their derby rivals Deeside Dragons in their final league game of the 23/24 season on Sunday night. Despite a 3-1 scoreline in favour of the Wild in the 3rd period, they fell short 4-5 to an in-form Deeside side who made it 6 wins from 6 games.


Forward Flynn Massie commented on the game, ‘Playing in a derby is an amazing feeling – the buzz around the rink is great and the noise from the fans is fantastic! I really enjoy facing Deeside, personally I feel they’re the games I play better in.’


Widnes iced a squad of 16+1 with young forwards Rhys Edwards, Gregor Donaldson, Flynn Massie and Kyle Carruth all returning to the line-up. However, defencemen Bez Hughes and Tom Jackson were still out through injury. Netminder #30 Phil Pearson started in-between the pipes for Widnes without a back-up due to unavailabilities.


Meanwhile, the Dragons travelled with a strong squad of 19+2, including key forward #61 Jared Dickinson who missed out in the previous meeting between the 2 sides. Deeside opted for former Widnes netminder #39 Matt Croyle, whilst #27 Ollie Booth backed up on the bench.


1st period –


Widnes won the initial face-off and immediately looked to apply offensive pressure on the Dragons. However, Deeside were the ones to open the scoring as top-points scorer #78 Brodie Jesson slotted the puck past #30 Pearson at 4:23 on the breakaway, assisted by #55 Ross Kennedy and #79 Petr Valusiak after he sat waiting in the high man slot.


Deeside doubled their lead to 0-2 just 20 seconds later after a scramble in the crease allowed #5 James Parsons to tuck the puck under Pearson at 4:43, via #79 Petr Valusiak and #7 Alex Parry. Wild’s #39 Matty Barlow was then handed the first penalty of the game at 4:56 for elbows as he looked for the opening Widnes goal. However, #78 Brodie Jesson sat for cross-checking at 6:05, leaving the Dragons with a 1:09 penalty kill.


Despite being a man short, former Wild player #12 Jakub Hajek sat in the crease and claimed a short-handed 3rd goal at 7:38 for Deeside, after a stretch pass from #79 Valusiak via #85 Oli Howells. Widnes continued to push to reduce the deficit, but the Dragons defence prevented the Wild attack from setting up in the zone.


Widnes found themselves on another penalty kill at 16:38 as #55 Owen Rae sat for hooking after tracking back to deny #29 Andy McKinney a shot on goal. A clinical performance from the Wild D-men kept the score at 0-3 heading into the final minutes of the 1st period. Deeside’s #92 Joe Greaves handed Widnes an opportunity late in the 1st, after he was called for a check-to-the-head at 19:28.

2nd period –


Widnes looked to fire several shots on Croyle during the power-play after he faced just a mere 4 shots in the opening period. However, their chance was cut short following a 2minute misconduct call at 20:50 on #88 Kyle Carruth. A strong display from Widnes denied Deeside the chance of extending their lead and they were later rewarded as #7 Alex Parry sat for cross-checking at 25:05.


Netminder Matt Croyle came up with a series of saves and continued to shut-out the Widnes attack who were eager to reduce the deficit. Several chances were created by national 2-ways #88 Carruth and #5 Edwards, but neither could claw back a goal for the Wild.


Deeside’s #72 Chris Jones left his side at risk of conceding at 32:45 after he was handed a roughing penalty as the derby tensions started to bubble over. Dragons forward #29 Andy McKinney caught Widnes on the back-foot, claiming another SH goal for Deeside at 33:06 on the breakaway, assisted by #61 Jared Dickinson, extending their lead to 4-0.


Widnes claimed more puck possession after the 4th goal and eventually clawed one back through 16 year old #61 Bailey Thomson at 35:03, assisted by #11 Will Harper and #88 Kyle Carruth. Dragons goal-scorer #29 Andy McKinney was then sent to the box at 39:46 with a 5 min boarding penalty after sending #11 Harper flying into the boards. This left Widnes with a huge opportunity in the 3rd period, being rewarded a man advantage for 4:46.


3rd period –


Widnes were relentless with their attacking pressure during the power-play, although they failed to find a way past #39 Matt Croyle. The 5th and final strike for the Dragons came from #8 Cade King who went 5-hole on #30 Pearson from close range, with both #61 Dickinson and #29 McKinney picking up additional points.


However, leading goal scorer #39 Matt Barlow quickly reacted to post the score at 2-5, after firing the puck over Croyle’s shoulder at 45:43 following a stretch pass from #63 Joey Coulter. The derby tensions then spilled over on a face-off in the Deeside zone, resulting in both #91 Gregor Donaldson and #8 Cade King sitting roughing penalties at 47:25.


Whilst both players sat in the box, #55 Ross Kennedy also made his way to the sin bin at 48:37 for hooking, leaving Widnes on the power-play. As calm as you like, #88 Kyle Carruth fired the puck under #39 Croyle from point at 49:09, assisted by fellow Scot #24 Flynn Massie to reduce the scoreline to 3-5.


Rivalry tensions spilled over further after #29 McKinney collided with #39 Barlow on the Deeside blue line. Both #5 Rhys Edwards and #72 Chris Jones received double minors at 50:33 which left the play 5on5. Widnes were handed arguably the biggest chance of the game at 55:22 after #79 Petr Valusiak and #88 Louis Morgan sat for roughing to leave Deeside 2 players down.


The Dragons prevented the Wild firepower for almost the full 2 minutes until they set up in the Deeside zone to cycle the puck around. A snipe from #24 Flynn Massie on the right wing at 57:16, assisted by #63 Joey Coulter brought the Wild to within a single goal with just under 3 minutes remaining. Despite an epic fight-back in the 3rd period, the Wild failed to find the equaliser before the final buzzer, seeing Deeside claim the 2 points with a 4-5 victory.


Following his performance, Massie added ‘I felt very happy when I scored the goal and earning the MVP topped the feeling. All the boys are very supportive when scoring so that made me feel a lot better too!’


MVPs were awarded to forward Flynn Massie following his goal, assist and overall strong game at both ends of the ice. Meanwhile, forward import #12 Jakub Hajek received the title for the Dragons.


Officials: Hamilton, Shields, Fielden


STATS – (0-3) (1-1) (3-1)


Widnes Wild: Bailey Thomson 1+0, Kyle Carruth 1+1, Flynn Massie 1+1, Matt Barlow 1+0, Joey Coulter 0+2, Will Harper 0+1


Deeside Dragons: Brodie Jesson 1+0, James Parsons 1+0, Jakub Hajek 1+0, Andy McKinney 1+1, Cade King 1+0, Petr Valusiak 0+3, Jared Dickinson 0+2, Ross Kennedy 0+1, Alex Parry 0+1, Oli Howells 0+1


Article written by Fleur Tobin