NIHL North preview: Wild on track for promotion chance

Widnes Wild bid to crown a season of improvement this weekend by collecting the point they need to secure their place in the NIHL North promotion/relegation play-off game.

The Laidler D2 outfit travel to Coventry Blaze on Saturday before returning to home ice the following day to face Hull Jets, knowing a draw in either game would guarantee them second place.

A two-legged play-off against Sheffield Spartans for a place in Moralee D1 would be Wild’s reward for an impressive campaign, but Player/Coach Scott McKenzie refuses to look beyond this weekend.

“The Blaze are a tricky side to play against,” said McKenzie. “They have good size, play hard and will defend with their hearts.

“They have a very young side but that should never be underestimated. We will go into the game as if it is a play-off game, as we really need that mentality until the end of the season.

“Hull are a team that defend really well then counter attack. If you play loose and don’t manage the puck well, they can cause you real problems.

“I’m really looking for two solid displays from our guys this weekend, take our chances when they come, defend well and we should be okay.”

Solway Sharks face Telford Tigers NIHL and champions-elect Blackburn Hawks in D1 over the weekend, aiming to seal their place in the end-of-season play-offs.

Saturday’s home against the Tigers will be for double points following the postponement of their game back in December and victory for the Sharks would secure a top-four spot.

The Dumfries outfit took three points from last weekend’s games against the Spartans and Sutton Sting and Head Coach Martin Grubb was satisfied with the return.

“We wanted a four-point weekend but with being behind in both games we have to be satisfied with three from four.

“Against the Spartans we got the early goal and I would’ve liked us to have built on that, but we were very sloppy and didn’t play with any tempo for first two periods and went 4-2 down.

“There were a few choice words spoken at period break and I asked the players to show the character I knew they had.

“To their credit they showed they can play in the third and we dominated that period to get the 6-4 win.

“It wasn’t a great performance, but at this stage it’s all about points rather than performances so we were pleased to beat a hard-working Spartans team.

“On Sunday we started very slowly and really gifted Sutton two goals and they were better than us in the first period. We needed to change the way we were playing and create a little more in front of net.

“We got a powerplay goal in the second period but Dima (Dmitri Zimozdra) was able to see the puck in their net and we knew we needed more traffic around him.

“In the final period we again showed our strength of character and two great goals from (Daniel) Abercrombie and (Stevie) Moore put us 3-2 up.

“From there I would have liked us to take the win, but we switched off a little to let them back to 3-3.

“At the end of the season it could still be a valuable point, so on the whole we’re satisfied with the weekend’s work.”

NIHL North Moralee D1

Saturday

Solway Sharks v Telford Tigers NIHL

Sunday

Billingham Stars v Whitley Warriors
Blackburn Hawks v Solway Sharks

NIHL North Laidler D2

Saturday

Blackburn Eagles v Nottingham Lions
Bradford Bulldogs v Altrincham Aces
Coventry Blaze v Widnes Wild

Sunday

Altrincham Aces v Bradford Bulldogs
Widnes Wild v Hull Jets

(Image permission: Geoff White)

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