The Sens played their first game of the 18/19 season last weekend, a tough away trip to Widnes to play the Wild who always prove to be a solid team. Due to illness and a few other factors Sens only traveled with 11 players and two netminders, with two under18’s travelling late after finishing their own game at Sheffield and arriving towards the back end of the first period – with just 3 natural forwards in the line up. Widnes put out 18 skaters, meaning that they could roll 4 lines and keep fresh legs.
The first 10 minutes this proved to be the case, with Wild hoping to put the game out of sight as early as possible. The early pressure told with just over 3 minutes when Stuart Brittle scored after a bouncing puck landed at his stick, to put the hosts 1-0 up. The pressure continued with Mark Hartley holding strong and making some key saves to keep the score as it was. Both teams had some powerplay time, but neither could take full advantage – although the Sens were now coming back into the game and putting more pressure on Matt Croyle in the Wild net. The arrival of the two extra players for Sens gave a further boost of energy, with
the defensemen that were playing as forwards could go back to their natural positions and the lines settled down into a better rhythm. The period ended with just the one goal being scored at 1-0 to Widnes.
Into the second and Sens were hoping to get an early goal back, with Widnes wanting to build on their lead. The Sens looked a little more settled, although the long change caused a few issues throughout with the shift lengths getting too long at times. Widnes were first to strike, just after Sens had a powerplay opportunity in which they failed to convert; although coming close a few times and having nice puck movement, making Croyle pull of some flying saves. The Wild player stepped out of the penalty box at the perfect time, just as they had a break and made it a 2-on-1 with Hartley having no chance to make the save. It was an unfortunate goal to concede as Sens had been coming on stronger and were hoping to get the scores level. However, this
did not deter any of the players and 2 minutes later a fast break from Nathan Britton dropped the puck to Stevie Weeks who put the puck away top shelf to make it 2-1. Another powerplay gave the Sens a further opportunity, but another breakdown gave Widnes an odd-man rush and a slightly deflected slapshot from their new import Jakub Hajek flew over the shoulder of Hartley. Despite further chances for both teams the score at the end of the second was 3-1.
With nothing else to lose, Sens were trying to go all out in the third to bring the game back onto level terms but Widnes kept rolling their extra players to try and wear down the Sens team. Sens were clearly tiring having all put in a good shift and Widnes have most of the play, outshooting Sens 25-13 in the third but it was the Sens who pulled another one back when some nice play by Truels Lone in the corner found Tom Humphries, who passed to Nathan Britton in front and put it away making it 3-2. Sens tried to push further up, leaving
gaps in defence which Widnes managed to capitalise on with another odd-man rush and the puck ending up through the legs of Hartley. There were only two minutes left at this stage and then a penalty gave Widnes a powerplay with 55 seconds remaining and it looked like the game was over. However, Nathan Britton managed to pull a puck out of the air for a breakaway and put the puck high into the net to make it a tense finish. From he next face-off the Sens had one final chance when a puck found its way to Britton on another breakaway, but he was denied by Croyle and the clock counted down for a 4-3 loss – one in which the team never stopped trying, despite having less players and icing 2 under 18’s.