Nottingham Vipers travelled to Sheffield Shadows knowing a win or draw would complete their transformation from last seasons’ basement team to this year’s Womens Premier League Champions.
Nervousness and some illnesses were evident from the outset with Holly Steeples largely to thank for keeping the Vipers in the game during the first period.
Sheffield started with a much greater energy and a P1 score line of 2-0 in favour of Vipers was extremely harsh on the home side.
Steeples blanked chance after chance in the early minutes and has been a major part of this year’s success. This was then followed, against the run of play, with a one-timer from Madison Wright that pinged off the post and gave little chance to Libby Bird in the Sheffield net (assisted Mullen and Jackson).
The score remained at 1-0 for most of the period.
Then, with little sign of Nottingham settling in to the game, Madison Wright was fed by Chamonix Jackson at the 19 minute mark, and found enough time for a big slap shot from close quarters, which trickled over the line to no doubt leave coaches on both sides bemused at the P1 position.
P2 saw Hannah Worthington and Jess Urquhart combine to set up Meg Rathbone for a neat finish and put the game to 3-0; and when Robin Mullen raced the length of the ice and held her nerve to score in spite of being tripped, a flattering 4-0 score line looked like it may well be enough to get Vipers home and dry.
However, it would be Sheffield’s Alison Brain who would score next at 31’ and 37’ to make it 4-2 and give the hosts the goals reward they had clearly deserved and a game that was right back in the balance.
Robin Mullen responded immediately and once more went on a trademark power skate, leaving players in her wake before hitting the net and restoring the lead to three goals (5-2) within 30 seconds of Sheffield’s attempted come back (assisted Kendall) – a lead that stayed to the end of P2.
P3 began slowly and it took a power play opportunity at 46’ for the next goal to come with Urquhart and Wright eventually delivering Bea Lester a chance to move in from the point and fire in a strong screened shot past Kirsty Robson, who had taken over in the Sheffield net.
Sheffield were undeterred and their incredibly hard working team found a third goal when Lizzie Saunders was allowed to drift in close and score on the backhand at 50’ for 6-3 with ten minutes remaining.
The Urquhart name is synonymous with ice hockey in Nottingham and it was apt that Jessica Urquhart would deliver a solo effort, skating through the Sheffield defence, before roofing high for the Vipers seventh goal at 52’, to put the game beyond any doubt.
Katherine Wiggins insisted on the final say with a fourth goal for Sheffield a little before the hooter, but the points the Vipers needed for the Championship were in the bag.
This season has been a real team effort. The Vipers feature experienced seniors and young, future talents. All have played their part with coaches Ryan Rathbone and Chris Keal sticking to their principles of putting player development ahead of achieving results.
This year has been one of those rare occasions when it has all come together perfectly to deliver both – a credit to both coaches and players!
Shadows PIM 4
Vipers PIM 4
Robin Mullen 2+1
Madison Wright 2+1
Jessica Urquhart 1+2
Chamonix Jackson 0+2
Megan Rathbone 1+0
Bea Lester 1+0
Hannah Worthington 0+1
Lucy Kendall 0+1
Nottingham MOM: Holly Steeples
Shots on Holly Steeples: 51 SVS% 92.2%
Nottingham Vipers, Womens Premier League Champions 2018-19