Ice Hockey: Widnes Wild round up

Winners Guildford Lightning celebrate with the Elite League Playoff Trophy. Photo: GW Pictures.

Written by Paul Breeze

There is a significant change at the helm of Widnes Wild Club following the departure of founding chairman Matt Lloyd, who was recently appointed director of the sport’s national governing body, the English Ice Hockey Association.

Two new pairs of hands are taking over the running of the club behind the scenes and they are already known to many people around the Planet Ice rink as they are Danny Davies and Georgia Weekes, both of whom have a very long association with ice hockey at Widnes.

Of the move, Danny and Georgia said, “Having been involved with Wild and Planet Ice for a number of years, we look forward to taking on the new challenge of running the club. As some of you may know, we recently moved back from London and jumped on board at the end of last season to help Matt, Wez and Rich.”

“We are very proud to be working with such a great club who have arguably the most loyal fans in the league and look forward to seeing you all again soon for another successful season!”

Fans will be pleased to hear that management continuity for the Wild NIHL team is assured for another year with the return of Wez Spurrett and further announcements regarding coaching and player staff for next season are expected shortly.

Outgoing Wild chairman Matt Lloyd said: “I would like to thank everyone who has helped get Widnes Wild to where the club is today. What has been achieved is truly remarkable; Seven trophies in nine years and a successful move to Division 1 is something all involved should be very proud of and it is a strong foundation for the club to build on in their tenth season. I look forward to seeing the club develop on and off the ice and maintaining the high standards that have been set.”

Widnes Wild General Manager Wez Spurrett said: “I am incredibly excited to hear the news of Georgia and Danny taking charge of the club. Georgia and Danny were very involved last season so I’ve already seen how much they care about the club. And after the last few meetings that led to today’s news, hearing about their plans and vision for the future of this club, I can’t wait for them to get started.”

“It’s no secret how much Matt Lloyd has put into this club to get it to where it is today and how successful it has been over the past few years. And I don’t think a thank you could ever express the gratitude that the club, the players and the fans will have for all that dedication and hard work.”

“I know Georgia and Danny will do whatever it takes to continue the winning tradition we have here at the Wild and help the club grow.”

Widnes hosted another top-level hockey event over the weekend with the Women’s Trophy Weekend, played at Planet Ice.

With an incredible 10 games played over the two days, many of the country’s best players met in Saturday’s semi-finals of the Women’s Elite League (WEL), Women’s Premier League (WPL) and English Division 1 (D1), with four finals on Sunday.

In the semi-finals of the Women’s Elite League, runaway league champions Solihull Vixen suffered a surprise 6-4 loss to Guildford Lightning – the only time they have lost to them in five meetings this season – while fourth-placed Streatham Storm beat second-placed Queen Bees defeated with 2. 1. This meant, unusually, that none of the WORLD’s top teams from recent seasons would appear in the play-off finals that year.

Guildford score against Streatham in the Elite League Finals.

In the semi-finals of the Women’s Premier League, league champions Bristol Huskies, unbeaten in all 16 games of the regular season, beat the Kingston Diamonds 3-0 and the Sheffield Shadows 4-1 against the Firebees.

In the North v South Division 1 semifinals, D1 North champion Whitley lost 5-3 to D1 South runners-up Streatham and Solway Sharks Ladies lost 8-2 to S1 champions Swindon Topcats to one to form the All-South final.

Four finals were played in a row on Sunday. In the Elite League decider, Guildford Lightning won their first-ever WEL title with a 5-2 win over Streatham Storm, while the Bristol Huskies clinched the league play-off double with a 7-3 win over Sheffield Shadows in the WPL final made.

In the All-South Division 1 Final, the Swindon Topcats beat Streatham 7-0 to secure their championship play-off crown. They also win promotion to the Women’s Premier League for next season, pending a league reorganization.

In the U16 girls’ national playoffs, the London Capitals of Haringey from the south won 2-1 against the winners Kingston Diamonds from the north.

Streatham battles for the puck against Swindon in the Division 1 final.

Following the conclusion of the women’s hockey season, the Wild Ladies Team hosted their season-ending awards night.

The award for most points of the season went to Preston Gennoe, who joined the club last summer. She finished the season with eight goals and four assists from 13 league and challenge games, and also led the club penalty shootout with 26.

Wild Ladies player, coach and captain Leen de Decker – who holds the record for all goals and appearances at the World Cup for her home country Belgium – was named forward of the year, while the award for best defense went to Vanessa Crickmore-Clarke went.

Revamped goaltender Stephanie Drinkwater — who had more shots than any other goaltender in the WPL this season, but also more saves than anyone else — was Players’ Player of the Season and Charlotte Cramp was Coach’s Player of the Season.

Ellie Walsh-O’Neill, who competed in the seniors in her freshman season, was recognized as the player with the most improvement.

The Wild Ladies team is now taking a well-deserved break and will resume training for the new season on July 19th. New players – especially those with league experience – are always welcome.

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