The YKK Widnes Wild faced the Solihull Barons on Saturday night for the 1st leg of their playoff quarter final tie, after finishing 7th place in the league standings. The Wild took a 2-5 loss in their final game on home ice of the 23/24 season, giving Solihull a 3 goal lead to take back down South with them.


Widnes iced a healthy squad of 18+1, after both #5 Rhys Edwards and #32 Harrison Walker returned to the team from their NIHL National 2-way sides of Hull Seahawks and Leeds Knights. Additionally, #20 Bez Hughes and Captain #84 Tom Jackson returned back into the lineup off the back of their long-term injuries to boost the defence.


However, Widnes were without utility man #24 Flynn Massie due to a clash of fixtures with SNL side North Ayrshire Wild and forward #21 Damarni James. Harrison Walker was given the start for Wild, following his recent run of performances for the NIHL National League Champions, after both #30 Phil Pearson and #29 Jake Lowndes were unavailable.


Meanwhile, Solihull Barons travelled with a strong side of 19+2, including former Widnes Wild German import #22 Dani Haid. However, both #23 Dan and #24 Phil Mulcahy, plus #6 Richard Crowe were key players missing out on a place in the Barons lineup. Solihull gave regular start #35 Graham Laverick the nod in between the pipes, backed up by #33 Ben Lee.


1st period – (0-1)

Solihull started the first period with intent, forcing Walker to make a series of early saves, most notably a catcher save from a blue line shot by #2 Alex Whyte. However, Widnes also found their fair share of chances but failed to punish the Barons.


The opening goal then came from #59 Jordan Jolly for Solihull after he slotted the puck past Walker at 5:41 unassisted. The Barons looked to score another in quick succession, but the Wild defence held strong to prevent the firepower of imports #91 Niklas Ottosson and #20 Filip Byfält.


Arguably the biggest chance of the period for Wild came from a breakaway between #61 Thomson and #39 Barlow, but the rebound was covered by #35 Laverick before Barlow could connect, following the strike from Bailey Thomson. Another breakaway chance was made by #91 Gregor Donaldson, but his snipe was once again gloved by Laverick.



The first penalty of the evening was handed to #18 Jacob Race at 16:01 for tripping, leaving Widnes with the chance to equalise on the man advantage. Despite several shots through Williamson, Carruth and Barlow the Wild fail to tie the game during the power-play and remainder of the 1st period, leaving Solihull still 1 goal ahead after 20 minutes.


2nd period – (0-2)


Widnes returned for the middle frame with a set game plan and looked to execute it quickly, but Laverick prevented the Wild offence with a series of saves. Solihull were given their first power-play of the evening at 25:33 as Barons’ fan favourite #11 Will Harper sat a 5+game penalty for dropping the gloves, after being smashed into the boards by #15 Matt Maurice behind the Solihull goal.



Finnish import #20 Filip Byfält doubled the lead to 0-2 for Solihull, after firing top-corner over Walker on the man advantage at 26:23, assisted by #75 Charlie Webb and Captain #91 Niklas Ottosson, who claimed his 100th point of the season. A long passage of play in the Widnes zone gave Solihull the opportunity to extend their lead, but both #55 Owen Rae and #88 Kyle Carruth put their bodies on the line to relieve pressure from #32 Harrison Walker in net.


Widnes’ D-man #55 Owen Rae then received an interference penalty at 30:50, putting Wild at risk of conceding another goal to the Barons. The defence coped well and Widnes returned to 5 skaters, but Rae found himself in the box again at 35:18, this time being called 2+2 for high sticking on #11 Brandon Anderton. The Barons failed to capitalise on the advantage, leaving Widnes still trailing by 2 goals heading into the final period of the 1st leg.


3rd period – (2-5)


Wild came out for the final period with intent to reduce the deficit and fire more shots at Laverick who had faced a mere 3 in the 2nd period, compared to Walker’s 26 stops. However, former Wild forward #22 Dani Haid found the 3rd goal for Solihull at 43:05 after picking up the loose puck in the midst of a scramble in the crease, after Walker spilled the initial shot.


Wild were then handed another chance to claw a goal back at 44:23, whilst #20 Filip Byfält sat 2 minutes for hooking. Widnes once again failed to time a perfect shot, allowing Solihull to retain their 3 goal lead despite being a player short. German import #22 Dani Haid grabbed his 2nd of the game at 47:47, firing the puck over Walker’s shoulder from the left wing, assisted by #55 Bailey Challans to extend the lead for the Barons.


The 4th goal lit a fire in the Wild squad and the first Widnes goal came from #88 Kyle Carruth who sniped the puck past Laverick through traffic, after a clinical play between #18 Johnathon Williamson and #16 Mikey Gilbert at 50:16. Solihull’s #11 Brandon Anderton then sat for cross-checking at 50:40 giving Widnes a major chance to claw goal another back.


The 2nd Wild goal was scored just 58 seconds later at 51:14 by assistant Captain #10 Nathan Britton who picked up the loose puck on the back door and chipped it over Laverick’s pads to give the Wild fans hope, assisted by #16 Mikey Gilbert and #39 Matty Barlow.


However, the Barons regained their 3 goal lead through a replica of his 1st goal for #20 Filip Byfält at 51:38, assisted by #75 Charlie Webb and #91 Niklas Ottosson once more. Wild forward #61 Bailey Thomson came close to claiming the 3rd goal for his side as he looked to slot the loose puck under Laverick, but he reacted quickly to cover the puck in the crease.


Widnes threw everything they had at the Solihull net in a final attempt to tighten the scoreline, but the final buzzer sounded at a 2-5 scoreline in favour to the Solihull Barons after 60 minutes of hockey played.


Although Solihull had a 3 goal advantage heading into the 2nd leg on home ice, the playoff position was still all to play for and Wild remained more than hopeful in overturning the current scoreline.


MVPs were awarded to #16 Mikey Gilbert for Widnes Wild who put in a performance at both ends of the ice and picked up 2 assists. Meanwhile, #22 Dani Haid received the title for Solihull Barons following his brace.


Officials: Goodfellow, Shields, Munroe


STATS – (0-1) (0-1) (2-3)

Widnes Wild: Kyle Carruth 1+0, Nathan Britton 1+0, Mikey Gilbert 0+2, Johnathon Williamson 0+1, Matty Barlow 0+1

Harrison Walker – (14/26/12) 52 shots

Solihull Barons: Dani Haid 2+0, Filip Byfält 2+0, Jordan Jolly 1+0, Charlie Webb 0+2, Niklas Ottosson 0+2, Bailey Challans 0+1

Graham Laverick – (6/3/11) 20 shots


Article written by Fleur Tobin

Images taken by Ste Cunningham