Chris Wiggins: You know you have a reputation when people jump out of your way

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CHRIS Wiggins is enjoying life as Lightning’s new hard man, but after celebrating his birthday with a goal against old rivals Peterborough Phantoms, he says he would swap that image for a few more nights on the scoresheet.

Standing at 6ft 5ins and weighing some 225lbs, Lightning’s new power forward is a daunting figure out on the ice, and marked his 25th birthday in style with his first goal for the city side in their 4-1 derby victory against Phantoms on Saturday night.

He also played a part in Grant McPherson’s strike in the return fixture in Peterborough the following day, but Lightning couldn’t repeat their earlier success and crashed to a 5-2 defeat.

For Wiggins those two games completed his first full weekend of the season, having missed Lightning’s previous four English Premier League games because of a fractured wrist sustained in the team’s defeat to Guildford at the end of September.

The former Basingstoke Bison man said it was good to be back playing again, and even better to net his first goal in Lightning colours. But he was disappointed that they couldn’t complete their second four-point weekend of the season.

“The lads were really down in the dressing room after losing to Peterboorugh,” he said. “No one gets into sport to lose and it really hurt us – especially because we know what we did wrong.

“I think we were almost trying too hard – trying to rush things and forgetting how to do the simple things right. We over-complicated the game and got punished for it.”

By his own admission, Wiggins was forced to take it slightly easier than normal at the weekend, not flying into challenges – and opposition players – quite as much as he would like to, and normally does.

However, he made an excellent first impression on Lightning fans when he made his competitive debut in the club’s opening night thrashing of Manchester Phoenix – proving his reputation as one of the EPL’s toughest players.

Not only did he immediately adhere himself to the Thunderdome faithful with his physical and no-nonsense style of play, but he also backed up general manager Vito Rausa’s claims that he ‘wasn’t just signed to fight’ by having a hand in some of the team’s eight goals that night.

“That’s my style and I make no apologies for it,” said Wiggins. “Some people are good at skating, or good at shooting, or something else, but I’m just a big lump.

“I don’t really think about being thought of as the ‘hard man’ of the team, but I guess you realise your reputation a bit when you see guys jumping out of the way to try and avoid me hitting them. It must be in people’s minds when they sense me coming up behind them.

“I would like to score more goals though. I’d swap the image for a hat-trick every game, put it that way. Scoring on my birthday was fantastic – it was a big relief in fact. You always want to get off the mark for your new team, and doing it in a good win was even better.”

After double-headers against Peterborough and Bracknell Bees before that, Lightning face two completely different tests this weekend as they welcome bottom of the table whipping boys Telford Tigers to Planet Ice on Saturday night before heading north to take on league leaders Manchester Phoenix 24-hours later.

Despite them still looking for their first win, Wiggins is taking nothing for granted against Telford, and is sure Lightning face an extremely tough encounter when they take on a Manchester side with a point to prove.

“They will seriously want to beat us,” said Wiggins. “So we’ll need to go there and play the best we can. But we’re not going to have anything handed to us on a plate by Telford either – they’re good defensively.

“I’m four games behind the rest of the team in terms of fitness because of my injury, but I think I’m at about 90 per cent now, and I’m looking forward to playing as much as I can. Hopefully we can get a couple of wins – I’ll be trying my hardest.”