Hexagon Telford Tigers 2 travelled to Widnes for the opening game of their pre-season preparations for the first of a double header with the NIHL North League One team. The hosts were a division ahead of the Tigers 2 team and with Telford missing a few players for varying reasons, there were a couple of additions to the squad – coach Scott McKenzie put on his skates for the game and was joined by fellow National League team player Deakan Fielder.
Tigers 2 started with Ryan Lewis in goal after the net minder dropped down from the National League team to get more ice time this season.
The game was only two minutes old when Tigers 2 took the lead. A long range shot from Connor Keyes beat the screened Phil Pearson in the Widnes goal to put the visitors ahead.
The opening period saw both teams showing an element of ring rust after so long without a game and Wild finally got their game together with two goals late in the period. First Alex Mitchell equalised and, within thirty seconds, Matt Barlow had put Widnes ahead with just twelve seconds left in the period. Tigers 2 headed into the break undeservedly behind.
Tigers 2 were level a minute into the second period after scoring a power play goal. With a Widnes player in the penalty box for interference, Tigers 2 took full advantage of the extra man when youngster Ryan Leese sent a shot in on Pearson which was saved but Oli Hunt was first to the rebound to tap the puck home from close range.
Parity lasted less than a minute though as Widnes regained the lead straight away when a shot from Jonathan Williamson hit Tigers’ defender Simon Harrison and deflected perfectly for Andrew Hopkins to score past Lewis.
Within five minutes, the score was level again when McKenzie was sent clear on goal and scored at the second attempt after his initial shot was saved.
Tigers 2 were then presented with a 5-on-3 power play when Callum Ruddick and Will Harper were both called for penalties within 20 seconds of each other. Tigers 2 power play unit kicked into gear and gave the team the lead. Fielder sent a pass across the slot where McKenzie was waiting to hammer a shot past Pearson.
The lead was increased shortly after when some excellent play by James Smith created a chance for McKenzie to complete his hat trick from close range and put Tigers 2 ahead by two goals.
Lewis was replaced in goal by young prospect Hal Griffiths who made his debut at senior level after impressing for the U18s team last season.
As the period progressed Widnes drew level with two quick goals of their own. Mikey Gilbert pulled a goal back with a shot that hit the post and appeared to have been cleared before it crossed the line but Referee Hamilton awarded the goal. Shortly after, Hopkins added his second of the game from close range to leave the sides level at the end of the second period.
Early in the third period Widnes took the lead once again when a shot from distance by Jake Meehan beat Griffiths.
Tigers 2 hit straight back with an equaliser. Leese’s long range shot was saved but Connor McNaughton turned the puck in to draw the sides level.
With no further goals in regulation time the game went to sudden death overtime where despite Tigers 2 having a lengthy power play chance, there were no further goals and the game went to penalty shots.
Joey Coulter scored first for Widnes with Leese’s shot saved by Pearson. Griffiths then made a terrific glove save to deny Ruddick and McKenzie scored for Tigers 2. Griffiths followed up his glove save with an even better one from Nathan Britton but Hunt missed his penalty shot.
Meehan scored for Widnes and was followed by a goal for Tigers 2 by Smith.
The final two shots proved crucial as Hopkins scored for Widnes but a terrific poke check by Pearson prevented Charlie Hammerton from getting his shot off and the Wild won the game.
Final Score: Widnes Wild 7 Hexagon Telford Tigers 2 (Laidler) 6 (after shoot out).
Scorers: Scott McKenzie (3), Connor Keyes, Oli Hunt and Connor McNaughton.
Man of the Match: Hal Griffiths.