Opponents: Sheffield Steeldogs
Date: Saturday September 7th
Key timings: Doors Open 18:00. Warm-up 18:20. Face-off 19:00
The long wait is over and it’s all systems go for the new look Milton Keynes Lightning team – and management – as they get the 2019-2020 season under way with a pre-season challenge game against Sheffield Steeldogs on Saturday (September 7) at Planet Ice.
But while there are many new faces in the Lightning line-up it’s a case of déjà vu for some – not least Head Coach Lewis Clifford and his assistant, Ross Bowers, while Milton Keynes-born Leigh Jamieson is, at 34 years old, one of the veterans of the team.
Ben Russell and Ross Green have previously seen service with Lightning while James Griffin and Harry Ferguson are the only returnees from the team that has stepped down from the Elite League to the second tier of British hockey, the newly formed National Ice Hockey League.
Also joining the roster for the weekend is 21 year old Logan Prince who is stepping up from Milton Keynes Thunder to build his experience and provide cover for Hallden Barnes-Garner who has a suspension carried over from last season. Logan will wear the number 25 jersey.
Any fears though the new management consortium may have had that the fans would desert the club with the change of competition were dispelled by the big turnout for the meet the players and open training session event on Sunday.The bar was packed as each of the players was announced and quizzed by the fans while Chairman of the Supporters Club, Dave Bunyan, said he was astounded by amount of merchandise sold on the day.
The move to the NIHL means Lightning will be resuming acquaintances with several teams from their English Premier League days – including Saturday’s opponents, Steeldogs who are coached by long-serving Ben Morgan. Cole Shudra who spent last term on loan to Lightning is on a two-way contract with Steeldogs and Sheffield Steelers.
Nathan Salem was with Hull Pirates when Lightning were last in the second tier. He joined Steeldogs last year after spending the 2017-2018 campaign with Peterborough Phantoms.
Other familiar names include Tim Smith, Lewis Bell, Thomas Relf, James Spurr and Craig Elliott. The Yorkshire outfit’s two non-British players both hold Czech passports – Jan Danecek who is icing for the first time in this country having spent past five seasons with Unia Oswiecim in Poland and Vladimir Luka who is also new to the country after two years in Poland with Zaglebie Sosnowiec .
Face off on Saturday is at 7pm. Don’t forget season tickets are not valid for this game – adult tickets cost £5 and children pay just £1.