Head Coach of the Smith Recycling MK Lightning, Pete Russell, said the smiles returned to the team locker room as a three goal shutout victory on Sunday ended a challenging week for the club.
Speaking to BBC Three Counties Radio on Monday, Coach Russell had nothing but praise for his team – and their supporters – after three unanswered goals gave Lightning their first road win since 12th November.
MK have been hit hard by injuries and suspensions in the second half of the campaign, recently losing Kyle Essery, Miika Wiikman and Tommy Mele to injuries then Denny Kearney and Matt Nickerson to suspension. Nickerson was released by the club last week after the EIHL handed down a 20 game ban for infractions during last week’s match in Guildford.
“Being five imports down is almost unheard of at this level. But the guys in the dressing room have stuck together and the fans have been sensational at home and away. The amount of fans who went to Scotland last night was unbelievable. All our fans can see that the guys are working hard and that’s what MK is all about.”
He continued, “At 4-0 down on Saturday the heads could’ve gone down – but we stepped back, took a deep breath, went again – and pulled two goals back. And after Sunday’s win it was nice to see smiles in the room again.”
But there does seem to be light at the end of the tunnel; Saturday’s clash with reigning Elite League champions the Cardiff Devils will see the return of fans’ favourite Denny Kearney from a three-game suspension. Coach Russell confirmed that forward Tommy Mele is making a good recovery from a broken metatarsal, whilst Kyle Essery has skated for the first time since sustaining a knee injury. Netminder Miika Wiikman’s return from concussion is being carefully managed but Russell is optimistic all three will return before the end of the season.
“One of the guys used the phrase, “it’s been a wild season”, and it certainly doesn’t get any easier facing Cardiff on Saturday! But it’s pleasing, as a coach, to see how the guys have really pulled together and done this club proud.”
Photo: Edinburgh Capitals