Tigers hit the ice against MK after summer break

Telford Tigers return to action against Milton Keynes Lightning this weekend as the countdown to the English Premier League season gathers pace.

The county men have endured a tough first week of pre-season training, with intense twice-daily training sessions and off-ice fitness work at Telford Ice Rink.

That strategy will be put to the test against a Lightning side that is widely expected to challenge for silverware in all competitions this season.

Tigers coach Tom Watkins has been impressed with his squad’s efforts during those opening sessions, and expects more of the same this weekend.

He said: “The guys are of course tired and a little sore in places, but you have got to expect that. They’ve had a great attitude to what has been a very tough week.

“We’ve had our morning training times shifted an hour earlier, which has meant some of guys have been up from 5am. That can make things hard for the rest of the day.

“But despite that they’ve worked extremely well and shown good character. Everything I have asked so far, everyone has responded very well to.”

The Tigers travel to Milton Keynes on Saturday for their opening pre-season fixture, before a return encounter at Telford Ice Rink on Sunday evening (6pm).

Watkins added: “This weekend isn’t about making a statement or anything like that, and in some ways the result is irrelevant for me as a coach.

“The important thing is the players buy into what we’re doing as a group. There will be mistakes and some guys will be tired or playing in new roles.

“As a club, we need to make sure we’re playing the right way in every shift.”

This weekend’s games will once again bring Watkins into contact with good friend and Great Britain coaching colleague, Pete Russell.

The Milton Keynes coach holds the upper hand over Telford after last season’s play-off victory, and Watkins is expecting a similar challenge this weekend.

“Neither team has 22 new guys and there will be a lot of returning players on both sides,” he said.

“I know how they like to set up and Pete knows how I like to play every game. A good coach will know what the other team is doing within the first few shifts.

“It is then up to the players to execute, read and react to those different situations. We’ll see how competitive they are, if they’re willing to block shots and finish hits.

“Part of the process that we want as a team is for those things to make a big difference to results at the end of the day.”

Telford Tigers fans can buys tickets for Sunday’s game by logging on the Tigers website, at www.tigershockeyuk.com. Tickets will also be available on the door.

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