Hockey returns to Milton Keynes this Saturday

    Nine-times trophy winners, the Smith Recycling MK Lightning, make their Elite League debut with a home pre-season friendly against the Coventry Blaze.

    Lightning left the EPL on a massive high, winning not just the English Premier League Cup - which had, until last season, eluded them - but concluding the season with an utterly dominant 7-2 demolition of Telford Tigers to lift the Play Off trophy.  Lightning’s double victory means they left the EPL as that league’s most successful team ever, with no fewer than nine trophies to their name.

    Over the close season, Lightning began preparing for life in the top tier of the sport in the UK - the Elite League - when it was announced that the organisation had new owners.  Ambitious husband and wife team Graham and Monica Moody took over the club, the news adding a new element of intrigue for the Lightning’s loyal supporters.

    Head Coach Pete Russell - fresh from his success with Team GB winning gold at April’s world championships - commenced MKL’s signing announcements with the addition of Guillaume Doucet from the reigning EIHL champions Cardiff Devils; an early statement of intent that Lightning were not joining the Elite League simply to make up the numbers.

    Coach Russell has signed a fast and exciting roster to represent Milton Keynes in the Elite League this season, including players from the current French league champions Gap, alongside players who attracted NHL interest including Carl Hudson and Christian Isackson.  Other additions include hot prospects from the highly rated NCAA American collegiate system, Quin Pompi and Ben Foster.

    Elite League experience comes in the form of players including Jonathan Boxill, Matt Nickerson and Paul Phillips, whilst MK fans will already be familiar with the names of Jordan Hedley, Lewis Hook, Przemy Odrobny and James Griffin, to name but a few.

    Saturday’s opposition the Coventry Blaze have had an eventful summer with more than a dozen players leaving, a similar number arriving and relatively few extending their stay.  

    Players leaving Croft Road include GB star Liam Stewart who joins EIHL rivals Guildford Flames with Blaze team mate Ben Davies and Stewart’s fellow GB team mate Russ Cowley who has hung up his skates. Netminder Renny Marr is now on a two way deal with the Swindon Wildcats.  

    Amongst the newcomers to the Skydome are two players that Lightning fans may be familiar with - Luke Ferrara from Sheffield Steelers and Edgars Bebris from Peterborough Phantoms.  Bebris moves to the Blaze on a try-out agreement, initially for the club’s pre-season schedule.

    Of the 14 players arriving in Coventry, 11 are imports, and all but one have signed direct from overseas teams.  Fife Flyers’ captain, US born forward Ryan Dingle will wear Coventry colours this season.  Canadian forward Danick Paquette is a former NHL round 3 draft pick (2008) whilst Canadian netminder Kevin Nastiuk was a 4th round pick in 2003 with a 94% save rate in Germany last season.  

    Former MKL defenceman David Clements has extended his contract with the Blaze whilst Ontario-born forward Brett Robinson will continue to play whilst picking up the additional responsibilities of Assistant Coach to Danny Stewart.

    Stewart took over from Chuck Weber at the helm of the Blaze last summer - but in his first season in charge, the team failed to make the EIHL Play Offs.  One year on, however, Coach Stewart recently told local media that he is more optimistic than he was twelve months ago.

    Meanwhile Lightning Head Coach Pete Russell told supporters at the club’s season launch event, “It’ll be a rollercoaster - I can guarantee you that, and the best hockey you’ve ever seen in Milton Keynes!”

     

    Tickets for Saturday’s pre-season challenge against the Coventry Blaze are on sale now from the Planet Ice MK box office: in person, by phone on 01908 540020 or online at mk-lightning.co.uk/tickets.

    Season tickets are still available, allowing MKL supporters to guarantee their seats for every match in the upcoming campaign; download the information pack and application form at mk-lightning.co.uk/tickets/season-tickets

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