Missing several players expected to play a key role this season, a short-benched Vipers travelled to Guildford Lightning for a first ever taste of the Elite League.
With 13 players on the roster, 6 of whom were aged 17 and under, the Nottingham Vipers gave a gritty performance against top class opposition and came away with hope, positivity and smiles.
The team held out for 13 minutes before Louise Adams, returning to Guildford after a year in Sweden, would break the deadlock. Two more goals would then flow quickly for the Lightning with Canadian, Lindsey O’Neill netting at 14’ and Adams finding a second goal at 16’.
With P1 finishing at 3-0 to the home side, many might have predicted a big score line to follow.
However, the start of P2 saw Vipers fully re-energized and when Reagan Downing broke away to flip home on the backhand (assisted Rathbone and Urquhart), the confidence that flowed to the Nottingham team could be felt everywhere.
Seconds later, Vipers’ own Canadian, Robin Mullen carried the puck around the net and squeezed home to bring the game to an ‘all-to-play-for’ 3-2 position and find Vipers eyeing an upset.
A goal from young D, Suzanne Antelme, who wristed through a crowded Nottingham net at the 34’ mark, would prove vital to Guildford in keeping breathing space for the rest of the game. From there, the game ended unchanged at 4-2.
There was little doubt that the class and movement of Guildford brought a deserved win for them, but Vipers got sticks on pucks, blocked shots whenever they could and did their level best to play open hockey against much stronger opposition.
Fifteen-year-old, Libby Bird gave a stunningly composed performance on her Vipers and Elite League debut, posting a 91.8% save percentage to frustrate the opposition for much of the night.
Special mention must also go to Charlotte Sims (16) and Eleni Hallam (15), who gave courageous performances on the ice, having been asked to step up to the top tier with just a handful of competitive games each in their short hockey careers.
Both of these girls are products of the U16s Vipers and both made their Women’s League debuts this weekend.
With the three periods reading as loss, win and tie, this was way beyond first outing expectations.
Vipers welcome Guildford to the National Ice Centre on Sunday 20th October 2019, Face-Off 7.25pm. The game will become the first WNIHL Elite fixture to be screened live via YouTube, using automatic camera technology controlled by artificial intelligence alone.
Reagan Downing 1+0
Robin Mullen 1+0
Megan Rathbone 0+1
Jessica Urquhart 0+1
Lightning SOG 49
Vipers SOG 17
Lightning PIM 6
Vipers PIM 2
Nottingham goaltending: Libby Bird, 49 shots, 91.8% SVS
Nottingham Player of the Game: LIBBY BIRD