A fan inspired comeback saw Widnes Wild twice come from behind to win 5-2 against their closest rivals in the table.
The win over Billingham Strars sees Widnes move to within four points of their opponents with a game in hand.
Number 20 Bez Hughes was the MVP for the Wild with a hat-trick to seal the victory. The man of the match believed Widnes executed their plan brilliantly.
He told MerseySportLive: “We played that gritty game, got it in deep, went and retrieved our own pucks that we put in deep and just got everything on net really.
“We knew that he’d (the keeper) probably spill rebounds and obviously you get goals from dirty goals from getting rebounds and just getting in their end really.”
Hughes netting for Widnes in the third sector / Photo: Ben Wade
Widnes’ plan didn’t get off to the best of starts however, as Billingham’s number 81 Joe Dowdle scored inside the first two minutes.
Widnes struggled to deal with Billingham’s slick movement and quick passing and could have been even further down in the first sector.
However, an elbow from Billingham’s number 33 Finn Bradon left him sitting for two minutes. The Wild capitalized on this power play and equalised through number 19 Richard Haggar.
The Wild celebrate their goal / Photo: Ben Wade
Widnes looked to build on that equaliser in the second sector, but it was the same story. The Wild gave away the puck and Billingham scored a brilliant team goal, with number 5 James Moss tapping it in.
The boys in yellow would not back down though and just three minutes later were able to equalize again. Hughes turned in a scrappy goal, only just getting the puck over the line.
From then the second sector was end-to-end, with amazing saves from both keepers. Widnes managed 18 shots on goal compared to the Stars’ 15. Neither side were able to beat the keepers and the second sector ended 2-2.
A huge save from Billingham Stars goalkeeper, Brown / Photo: Ben Wade
The Wild were full of confidence after the second sector and came out flying in the third and final period. The Stars’ keeper Brown was once again up to the task though with a string of amazing saves.
Momentum was briefly halted as Wild’s Lee Kemp went down after a collision. He was helped to his feet after a couple minutes and, unfortunately, headed into the changing rooms.
Widnes did not slow down and continued the attack. After sustained pressure, the Yellows were able to take the lead for the first time. Number 38 Reagan Taylor had his shot deflected in by Hughes, who grabbed his second of the night.
Widnes pushing for another / Photo: Ben Wade
The next few minutes saw penalties galore. The Wild’s number 24 Adam Jasecko and the Stars’ number 12 Tommy Spraggon got two minutes for roughing. Billingham’s number 26 Roland Gritans swiftly followed for hooking.
Neither team was able to strike on the power play and within minutes both were back to full strength.
A nervy and end-to-end period ensued until the final four minutes saw number 10 Nathan Britton make it 4-2 to the Wild. The crowd were really alive after this one.
Face-off to reset the game / Photo: Ben Wade
In the final two minutes, the Stars’ looked to make a comeback, calling a timeout and pulling their keeper out the game. It got nervy for the Wild as number 71 Jack Murray sat for two minutes.
The Yellows were able to hold on, and with 6.6 seconds on the clock, that man Hughes sealed the victory, placing the puck into an open net, completing his hat-trick.
The importance of the victory was not lost on Hughes. He said: “A few weeks ago when we started building on the wins that was probably our turning point.
“But that is a massive factor. That’s a big confidence booster for us all for next week and for the rest of the year. Hopefully we can carry it on until the Christmas break and just come back and build on it after Christmas and carry on for that play-off spot.”
Up next for Widnes are the league leaders, Solway Sharks, at home on Sunday (Dec 4). A win will send a message to the rest of the league that they are still in it.