Preview: MK Lightning vs Belfast Giants (19 Oct)
By Paul Brookman
In form Belfast Giants make their first visit to Planet Ice for a double header against Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning on Friday and Saturday this week.
The games will also mark the first return of former Lightning favourite Lewis Hook since he made the switch to Northern Ireland over the summer. He is sure to get a big welcome from the home fans in recognition of the big impact he had on the team during his four years in Milton Keynes.
But the welcome probably won’t extend to ‘Hooky’ finding the net in either game after he registered his first goal for Giants in their 6-1 thrashing of Nottingham Panthers on Sunday.
Lightning will be keen to consign to history the memory of their visit to Belfast a couple of weeks ago – both games resulting in wins for Giants by 5-1 and 7-0 margins. Those victories sparked a six game winning streak which has seen Adam Keefe’s side unbeaten in October following an indifferent start to their campaign in September.
The key to Belfast’s success this year seems to be strength in depth with goals likely to come from any number of players. Patrick Dwyer is ranked fourth in the Elite League statistics with seven goals and six assists but you’ll have to look right down to position 15 to find the next highest scorer in Kyle Baun with five plus five while Blair Riley is 18th on four plus six.
Perhaps incredibly Darcy Murphy who scored a hat-trick in the second of Lightning’s games in Belfast is only 38th in the standings – his only other goal coming a day later when Giants beat Coventry Blaze 4-2.
Goals have also come from Curtis Leonard, Jonathan Ferland, Guillaume Gelinas, Francis Beauvillier, Kendall McFaul, Josh Roach, Hunter Bishop and another former MK player, Jonathan Boxill so Lightning will need to be on their mettle to take wins in either Friday’s clash which faces off at 7.30pm or Saturday’s which has the usual start time of 7pm. However as Nottingham Panthers found to their cost and Cardiff Devils so nearly found out Lightning are well capable of raising their game.
Tickets are available by visiting mk-lightning.co.uk/tickets. Alternatively buy your tickets on the door or in advance at Planet Ice. Call us on 01908 540020.
On Sunday Lightning make the short journey up the road to meet a side well familiar to them – Coventry Blaze at the Skydome Arena with a face off time of 5.15pm. The two teams have already met four times this campaign – twice in challenge games, once in the Challenge Cup and once in the league, with honours pretty much even. Sunday’s game is a Challenge Cup encounter.