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Play Off Showcase Awaits Lightning

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Milton Keynes Lightning logo Milton Keynes Lightning brought the English Premier League era in the town to an end on Sunday evening with a big win over struggling Hull Pirates - but the season isn’t quite over, just yet.

Lightning in league action against Saturday's Play Off semi final opponents, Guildford Flames, earlier this season. Photo by Tony Sargent Sunday’s match was the last time that the club will play on home ice as part of the English Premier League, ahead of their move to ice hockey’s top tier in the UK - the Elite League. But there are still potentially two EPL matches left to play, albeit on the road, when Lightning take part in the league’s Play Off competition at the Skydome Arena in Coventry this weekend.

After finishing second in the EPL this season and having lifted the EPL Cup last month, the club played six Play Off group stage matches against Basingstoke Bison, Swindon Wildcats and Hull Pirates in Group B - losing just one, away to Bison last Saturday.

Their reward: A semi final berth at 1pm on Saturday 8th April, against the Guildford Flames - who will also move up to the Elite League in September. The winner progresses to the grand final at 4pm on Sunday, against the winner of the other semi final, between Basingstoke Bison and Telford Tigers (5pm Saturday).

This season’s second-place finish in the league represents real progress after last season’s fifth spot at the end of the campaign - which was, in itself, progress after finishing seventh a year earlier. At the play offs a year ago, Pete Russell’s team lost out in the grand final; supporters hope the team’s league progression will continue in this post-season tournament - confidence is high.

The Play Off tournament is a firm favourite of supporters right around the league, with tickets snapped as soon as they’re released each February - even before it’s known which teams have qualified! This year, MKL’s allocation sold out in just half an hour.

On finals weekend itself, residents of Coventry must surely now be accustomed to seeing a myriad of replica and game-worn shirts all around the city, shoulder to shoulder with weird and wonderful fancy dress outfits. Lightning supporters choose a theme every season which, this year, is “Russell’s Rodeo”. A party atmosphere reigns all weekend regardless of match results, with the epicentre the Skydome Arena and Crosby’s bar.

The last remaining tickets for the EPL playoff final weekend went back on sale at midday Monday (3rd April) from the Skydome box office - 024 7663 0693 option 0.

After this weekend’s action in Coventry, Lightning’s supporters get the opportunity to party with their heroes at the club’s annual End of Season awards on Easter Saturday, before fans and players go their separate ways for the five month summer break.

And when the sport returns to Planet Ice in September it will be at Elite League level, complete with satellite TV coverage and opposition including the famous Nottingham Panthers and Cardiff Devils. Road trip venues will include Glasgow, Edinburgh, Belfast and also Coventry - home of rivals next season the Blaze, but a venue that MKL are well-acquainted with thanks to frequent play off qualification and a season playing there whilst the Planet Ice Arena in Milton Keynes was refurbished.

But before that, the anticipation and nerves that go with taking part in the EPL Play Offs this weekend. On the back of MKL’s current season home shirts are seven lightning bolts, representing three league titles and four Play Off championships in 15 seasons at this level. Last Sunday, a commemorative banner was raised to the rafters of Planet Ice MK for each one, then in front of a packed house one more was added for this season’s Cup win. Club and supporters alike hope that space needs to be found for one more after this weekend - and that next season’s jerseys will need extra shoulder space, too.

Stay right up to date with all the news on the club’s website, mk-lightning.co.uk. Fans not travelling to Coventry can follow the club’s progress this weekend with live updates on Twitter at @MKL_Matchnight

Click here for more information and news from the Milton Keynes Lightning website

Click here to see the latest Milton Keynes Lightning roster for the 2016/17 season

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