Lightning struggle on despite Covid absentees
The virus hit the Lightning squad ahead of their weekend fixtures
Milton Keynes Lightning coach Lewis Clifford faced one of the toughest challenges of his career when Covid-19 – plus injuries - ravaged through his squad last week, leaving the side missing nine players for two weekend games
Popular Clifford was forced to call upon favours from other lower National Ice Hockey League teams to borrow players from Oxford City Stars, Haringey Huskies and Sheffield Scimitars.
Despite losing 6-1 at home to Swindon Wildcats on Saturday and going down 3-1 at Sheffield Steeldogs on Sunday the coach was not too despondent. He told fans on social media: “It was a weekend that should be remembered for the right reasons, guys stepping up, guys stepping in, not the results we wanted but certainly nothing to be ashamed of after being put in an almost impossible situation.”
Star forward Liam Stewart was the first to reveal on Instagram on Tuesday that he had tested positive for Covid. Later in the week teenager Callum Field was also shown to have had a positive result and by Saturday afternoon the Covid and injury toll was revealed to have risen to nine.
In the meantime Clifford had contacted other clubs to beg and borrow players to make up a big enough roster to allow both weekend fixtures to go ahead – among the incomers was Oxford goalie Ross White. He followed up a good performance on Saturday with a man of the match one on Sunday, dealing with all but three of 41 Steeldogs shots to restrict the home score at iceSheffield.
At Sheffield it was a former MK player, Logan Prince, also borrowed from Oxford, who bagged a 45th minute consolation goal to ensure Lightning were not shut out after Brad Doxey, Tim Smith and Lewis Bell strike to put the hosts three goals in front.
The previous day captain Russell Cowley bagged a 46th minute powerplay goal to give home fans something to cheer following goals from Emil Svec, Edgars Bebris, Balint Pakodzi and Jack Goodchild. Two more Swindon strikes from Svec and player coach Aaron Nell cemented the Wildcats win.
Reflecting on the weekend in his post, Clifford continued: “Sometimes things are taken out of your hands and you just have to get on with it. I can’t say have ever been in a position like this before and don’t wish to be ever again but it is what it is. Many thanks to Oxford City Stars, Haringey Huskies and Sheffield Scimitars. To every guy who pulled on the shirt this weekend whether it’s a regular occurrence or it was their first time I’m very grateful and proud of you.”
By next weekend when Lightning face Bees at Planet Ice on Saturday at 7pm Clifford should have the majority of his squad back. On Sunday MK go to Slough for a return encounter with Bees.