LIGHTNING welcome Sheffield Steeldogs to town this Saturday aiming to start a winning trend against the Yorkshire side in the first of three meetings in four weeks for the two clubs.
The draw for the English Premier League Cup semi finals means Lightning will face Steeldogs twice in February in a two-leg aggregate score decider, after they go head-to-head at Planet Ice for much needed league points this Saturday.
When the two sides last met in November, supporters enjoyed a feisty game in which Lightning took the two points – but it wasn’t all good news as the fixture marked the beginning of an eight-match absence for Grant McPherson with a shoulder injury after an incident with Sheffield’s Steve Duncombe.
The Steeldogs climbed as high as second in the league table before Christmas while an inconsistent run of form saw Lightning fall to fourth. But since then fortunes have been reversed, with Nick Poole’s men winning regularly and taking full advantage of losses for Slough Jets and Guildford Flames to become serious contenders once again.
Speaking ahead of Saturday’s league clash, Lightning player-coach Poole said the team is under no illusions about the threat posed by Andre Payette’s combative side.
“They’ll give us another very physical game but we’re ready for it,” he said. “They worked us very hard when they came here in November, but we won and we want to make that the start of a pattern.
“Our top line is firing on all cylinders – Leigh Jamieson, Blaz Emersic and Juraj Gracik are in terrific form, and goals are coming regularly from the other lines too.
“Andre will have his guys all fired up to try and bring us down a peg or two, no doubt about that. But we’re fired up too – there’s a lot of confidence in the dressing room here.
“Our supporters have been fantastic recently – against Guildford last week we had our biggest attendance in a long, long time and the noise was unbelievable.
“It would be great to see as many of those fans as possible back in the rink this Saturday, making that noise all over again.
“We guarantee that both sets of fans will get great value for money on Saturday in terms of entertainment, but we’ll be out to see that our fans get a better return on their investment!”
More than 1,500 fans turned out for last Saturday’s home game against Guildford, and although Lightning missed their chance to leapfrog the Surrey side to the top of the table by losing 6-5, it was still a night to remember.
Captain Adam Carr said: “The atmosphere was absolutely fantastic – hopefully any newcomers to the game really enjoyed themselves. It would be great if we can keep getting big, noisy crowds like that for the rest of the year, to help us push for that league title that we all want to win.”
Doors open at Planet Ice at 6pm on Saturday with the teams on the ice to warm up from 6.15pm and face-off at 7pm.