Preview: MK Lightning v Manchester Storm (1 Dec)
By Paul Brookman
Manchester Storm pay their first visit to Planet Ice this season as Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning look to build on their recent improved performances to close the gap on Ryan Finnerty’s men.
Storm ended the latest round of matches last weekend two places above Lightning in the Elite League with a four points advantage. They have yet to win a road game in regulation time this year – their only points away from Altrincham coming in a penalty shoot-out at Dundee Stars way back on September 23.
Sunday’s 3-2 overtime victory at Cardiff Devils will no doubt have made Storm sit up and take notice that with the right leadership Lightning are capable of giving any team a run for their money.
Storm’s form this year has been in stark contrast to last season when they caused something of an upset in their second year in British hockey’s top flight by finishing second to Cardiff Devils – albeit by a distant ten points.
Since then second year coach Finnerty has lost Matt Beca to his former club, Glasgow Clan (previously Braehead Clan). Beca was third in the Elite League scoring rankings with 24 goals in a total of 75 points.
Storm have however retained the league’s top scorer last campaign, Mike Hammond, who weighed in with 32 goals in a total of 83 points. Hammond is again lighting up the lamp this term, currently standing ninth in the rankings with 17 goals and well on the way to beating last year’s total. It will be essential for Lightning to contain him.
Dane Byers and Luke Moffatt are also returnees from the 2017-2018 roster. They were seventh and eighth in the scoring chart then but while Moffatt has contributed six goals in a tally of 21 points, Byers is well down the rankings with 15 points. In fact Brit Ciaran Long is Manchester’s third highest scorer.
There have already been quite a few comings and goings at Storm this autumn – last week the club released goalie Jindrich Pacl who saw service with MK last term. He started in only two games, unable to force his way into a squad behind first choice Matt Ginn.
Finnerty has also renewed acquaintance with veteran UK-Canadian dual national Brendan Brooks when he left Sheffield Steelers late last month after a short stay, having been assistant player coach at Braehead previously.
Saturday’s game is our annual Air the Bear fixture where you're invited to donate a new, bagged teddy bear by throwing it onto the ice when the Lightning score their first goal of the night. Bears will be used by MK Hospital Charity in their fund raising work for the new MK Cancer Care Centre.
The game gets under way at the usual time of 7pm. Book your tickets at mk-lightning.co.uk/tickets. Alternatively buy your tickets on the door or in advance. Call us on 01908 540020.
On Sunday, Lightning have a rare day off – due to the 11-team format of the league which sees one team without a fixture on any given night.