Preview: MK Lightning v Guildford Flames (3 Nov)
By Paul Brookman
Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning return home for the first time in a fortnight this Saturday after their trio of fixtures in Scotland last weekend.
And there’s tasty opposition on the menu in the shape of the ever improving Guildford Flames.
The rivalry between Lightning and Flames goes back to the clubs’ English Premier League days. Both joined the Elite League last season where it is fair to say the Surrey outfit are enjoying better success this term than MK.
Flames produced something of a shock last weekend when they ended Cardiff Devils seven game unbeaten streak – home and away - with a 5-3 win at Ice Arena Wales. Recent recruit forward T J Foster who played in Norway last season scored two assists in that game and he went on to register one of Flames’ goals in the 4-0 defeat of Manchester Storm on Sunday.
Foster replaced veteran defenceman Kevin Phillips on the roster – the latter moving back to his roots with NIHL Hull Pirates. Like much of Flames squad he has considerable Northern American service – mostly in the ECHL (formerly East Coast League) which is ranked number three strongest league over the pond.
When Guildford moved up to the top level coach Paul Dixon opted to recruit his North American contingent almost exclusively from the ECHL where, presumably, he is able to keep watch for possible talent up to the rigours of the ever improving Elite League rather than select players from the lower leagues where players may or may not develop into the talent necessary for the UK’s top competition.
Of this year’s roster Jordan Abt, Corbin Baldwin, Chris Carrozzi, Travis Fullerton, John Dunbar, Brett Ferguson, Kruise Reddick and Ian Watters are among those who have all plied their trade in the ECHL at one time or another.
Following the departure of Joonas Huovinen, released for personal reasons, Lightning head coach, Doug McKay, has replaced him with Robbie Baillargeon who also has some ECHL games under his belt. In a disappointing weekend, results-wise, Baillargeon’s performances were a bright spot with two goals in the 6-4 loss to Glasgow Clan and an assist when Fife Flyers won 4-1 on Sunday.
Baillargeon will no doubt trying to please the home crowd with a few points in his debut at Planet Ice on Saturday – as will Scottish teenager, Harry Ferguson, who will also be making his first appearance at home. Saturday’s face off is at the usual 7pm.
Lightning, meanwhile, will be looking to erase the memory of the 8-2 loss in Flames last visit to the city.
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.
If Saturday’s game whets your appetite then you can travel to the Spectrum Centre, Guildford, on Sunday when Lightning take on Flames in the final Challenge Cup group game for both sides. Face off is 6pm.