MK Lightning's Assistant Coach Lewis Clifford says the team’s tough opening weekend to the 2012-13 English Premier League campaign will help them as they begin a season with a roster which has undergone significant changes - but which is determined to end a two-season silverware drought. New signings include Adam Calder, Nick Chinn, Stephen Wall, Dan Harris, Chris Wiggins and Jordan Hedley, and the club has, significantly, been able to retain the services of key players including Blaz Emersic, Alex Mettam and also Lukas Zatopek – widely regarded as one of the best defencemen in the league.
Now, with just a few weekends of the close season remaining, assistant coach ‘Cliff’, netminder Alex Mettam and forward Nick Chinn have given their reaction to last week’s fixture list confirmation. Lightning will contest three pre-season friendlies before the first weekend of the campaign pits them against Manchester Phoenix and last term’s league champions Guildford Flames.
“The first weekend is going to be tough but what a great way to start, playing against two of the teams that will, like us, want to be right up there when the silverware is given out", said 'Cliff'. "There are arguments for and against playing the top opposition at the start of the season but I think it can only be a good thing for us.” Alex Mettam agreed, saying “It’s a massive weekend when you come back after the summer – playing Manchester and Guildford first should make for some fantastic hockey to get things going”. New signing Nick Chinn said, "It's great to be playing those teams right at the start - it'll be a great gauge of what we can expect in the season ahead."
The entire Lightning roster is focused on winning trophies this season, and Alex acknowledged that their results from Christmas onwards will be key to that aim. “I always look to see who we play at Christmas and New Year as picking up points will be vital at that time of year - then the run-in to see who we face when we'll hopefully be challenging for silverware”.
But before the league campaign begins, the team has not only the traditional back-to-back ‘Ashes’ fixtures against Peterborough Phantoms, but also a friendly against Telford Tigers. “Three warm up games this year gives our new guys to get settled in and gives us a great chance to really hit the ground running when we start the league campaign”, observed Cliff. “I’m really happy to have three warm-up games this year”.
So what do hockey players do in the close season? “I’ve just enjoyed the summer of sport and played in the Firefighters’ charity game and also in summer hockey league”, said Cliff. Alex Mettam has enjoyed a similarly low-key summer: “I’ve mostly just been working but I've also been on the ice with some of the Rec players in Milton Keynes, and also playing in Summer Hockey League to get ready for action in September. Now I’m just looking forward to cracking on with the season!”