Lightning want to be the Elite League’s surprise package

MK Lightning. Pic: Tony Sargent
MK Lightning. Pic: Tony Sargent

A lot has changed at MK Lightning since they last took to the ice for a competitive match.

Gone are the legends, most of the regulars and familiar faces that fired them to the EHL Cup and Play-Off double last season, replaced with some of the best names in ice hockey in the country, with some foreign flare thrown in for good measure.

Head coach Pete Russell. Pic: Tony Sargent

Head coach Pete Russell. Pic: Tony Sargent

Stepping up to the top flight of English ice hockey - the Elite League - is a step into the unknown, but head coach Pete Russell is confident he has put together a side capable of causing more than a few upsets during the course of the campaign.

And he has set his sights high.

“I think we can make the play-offs,” he said. “It’ll be a tough ask but I think we have a team that can do it.

“We want to make our own rink a tough place to come and make it a team to be proud of.

MK Lightning vs Guildford Flames. Pic: Tony Sargent

MK Lightning vs Guildford Flames. Pic: Tony Sargent

“It’s a new challenge for us and we’re looking to test ourselves at the highest level in the country now. It has been great so far.

“The jump is massive - it’s a totally different animal.

“We want to be competitive every night we take to the ice and we’ll see where that takes us.”

A few faces remain from their English Premier League roster, but the step up to the Elite League forced Russell into some difficult decisions over the off-season.

He said: “We’ve put together a really good team.

“We had some really difficult decisions to make over the summer, but we had to make them.

“We’ve tried to keep the workman-like spirit at Lightning. We’ve got a good skating team and a gritty team. The early signs are very promising.”

Promising they are indeed, as Lightning took on Guildford Flames - another team making the step up to the top flight this season - on Saturday at the MK Arena, coming away with a 3-1 win.

But with Lightning on the eve of their biggest clash yet - taking on champions Cardiff Devils on Saturday in the league opener - they paid tribute to two of their former heroes prior to face off against the Flames.

The club retired the jerseys of former skipper Adam Carr (18) and Grant McPhearson (9) and hanging their banners above the ice, alongside Nick Poole’s 91 shirt, ushering in the dawn of a new era at MK Lightning.