Month: April 2018

Elite League & EPL veteran Tom Carlon re-signs with MK Thunder

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MK Thunder are delighted to confirm the re-signing of former Coventry Blaze and MK Lightning forward Tom Carlon.

Carlon made 52 appearances as Coventry won the Elite League title and EIHL Cup in 2007 before winning the EPL Cup and Playoffs with Lightning in 2017. He also won three gold medals and one bronze during four years on the Great Britain U18 and U20 teams.

Carlon returns for his second season under Thunder head coach Lewis Clifford following 18 points in 27 NIHL games with the red and black in 2017-18.

“I loved it last year,” Carlon said. “We had a great room and hockey was fun again.

“We didn’t always have the success we maybe should have and yet it was still enjoyable.”Carlon hailed the strength of the NIHL and is preparing to go up against some of the best teams in England again next season.

“I struggled personally last year so I’m looking forward to having another chance to hopefully help the team a little more,” he said.

“As a team I’m really looking forward to seeing if we can be more competitive. It’s a fun challenge to test ourselves as the league was much stronger than I think a lot of people thought it would be and I think every team will just get better.

“I’m excited to get back with the team and for us to keep learning and keep getting better.”

Carlon was presented to supporters gathered at the 2018 Awards Night on Saturday where the news of his return was announced.“I’m really pleased to be bringing TC back for next year,” Clifford said. “He’s a great guy and a player who adds so much to the team on and off the ice.”

The British forward’s previous clubs list features Telford Tigers, Bracknell Bees, Peterborough Phantoms and Belfast Giants. His experience of 616 professional games was key in MKT’s first ever season in the second flight of British ice hockey in 2017-18.

“TC felt he had a bad year last year and was beating himself up for not scoring as much as he thought he should be,” Clifford said. “However, he never saw the other side of it.

“I was happy with him as in many games he was the best player we had out there.

“I feel with a year of playing in this league under his belt — and a better understanding of how his role has had to change from his EPL days — TC will not only be the asset he was this year, but also improve on that and do more of what he loves to do, putting the puck in the net on a regular basis.”

MK Thunder 2017-18 End of Season Award Winners Revealed

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Defenceman of the Year – Greg Randall

Forward of the Year – Rio Grinell-Parke

Most Improved Player – Alex Whyte

Clubman of the Year – Nidal Phillips

Supporters’ Player of the Year – Tom Mboya

Coach’s Player of the Year – Grant McPherson

Player’s Player of the Year – Lewis Christie

Most Valuable Player – Tom Annetts

Clifford Secures GB Youth International

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Former Great Britain youth international Michael Stratford has agreed terms with Thunder head coach Lewis Clifford to return to Milton Keynes for the upcoming 2018-19 NIHL South 1 season.

“It was a no brainer coming back to MK this year as I was so welcomed last year,” Stratford said. “What I really liked is how every single one of the boys in the room always put in 110% every shift. I just couldn’t say no to being a part of that again when Cliff asked me to come back.”
The 21-year-old scored 10 points in 15 games for Cardiff Fire at the front end of last season before making the switch to Thunder in January. Despite the midseason transfer, Stratford ended the season as the Fire’s leader in goals and points.
“I was so welcomed by everyone in MK when I arrived half way through last year,” he said. “Not just the boys, but the management and also the fans.”
Swindon-born Stratford collected four points in eight regular season games in a Thunder jersey last season before finding the back of the net during the Playoffs Quarterfinals series with Peterborough Phantoms.

“When we bought Stratty in half way though last season it gave us a lift straight away,” Clifford said. “He’s a guy who knows how to score and you can never have too many of those.”

Second-year head coach Clifford made bringing the 6-foot-4 offensive talent back to MK was one of his main priorities heading into the offseason.
“Stratty is a great kid who wants to do his best for the team every time he pulls on the jersey,” Clifford said. “That, coupled with his ability, makes him an asset I had to try and keep hold of.
“I’ve already spoken about the fact we have to make some changes to keep moving forward and evolving as a team, however Stratty was high up my ‘keep’ list and I’m delighted to have him back on board but for a whole season this time.”
Prior to signing for Thunder last season, Straford also laced his skates in the English Premier League with Swindon Wildcats and Manchester Phoenix in addition to spells with Great Britain U18s and U20s. Now the one-time Swindon and Okanagan junior will get the opportunity to focus on the challenges ahead and playing his first full season with MKT.
“Personally for me it’s just getting back playing again after having the summer off and improving as much as I can,” Stratford said. “I’m looking forward to meeting the new boys on the team and build on what we had going last year. I’m excited to pull on the jersey again and get started.”

End of Season Awards Night

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Thunder’s 2017-18 End of Season Awards Night will take place in the Tag Taylor Bar & Grill at Planet Ice on Saturday April 21.

The evening gets underway at 7:30 p.m. with entrance free to all supporters.

In addition to the annual awards presented to players, the night will see the 2017-18 own & loan jersey sponsors presented with their shirts from the season.

Food and drink will be available and the MK Thunder Supporters Club have ensured some fantastic prizes for the raffle.

We hope to see you there for what is always a not-to-be-missed event!

Lewis Clifford Returns As Thunder Head Coach

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MK Thunder ice hockey club are thrilled to reveal that Lewis Clifford will return for a second season as head coach in 2018-19.

The Milton Keynes native took over the reins in 2017-18 and guided the team to a playoff berth as Thunder stepped up to the second tier of British hockey for the first time.

“I’m delighted that Cliff has agreed to continue as head coach next season,” said MK Thunder GM Dave Fairhurst. “It’s an unfinished journey we set out on a year ago and I look forward to working with him again as we seek to establish Thunder as a real force in this league.”

Clifford led Thunder to a 7th placed finish in NIHL South 1 in his maiden season with a squad comprised of local talent, exciting prospects, and a host of experienced names familiar to Elite League and EPL hockey.

“As a group we all made mistakes last season, especially with our home form,” Fairhurst said. “But overall we achieved our pre-season goal of being competitive against every team in the league if not the one of being a .500 team. Cliff recognises our shortcomings but in his first season as a head coach at this level he recruited well and developed our younger players throughout the season while rightly relying on our experienced players in tight games.”

The MK junior ice hockey club graduate saw four of his young players receive international call-ups in his first year behind the Thunder bench, and Fairhurst is looking forward to the pair building on the foundations laid in 2017-18.

“I have a tremendous working relationship with Cliff, what a lot of people don’t see is the huge amount of work he does behind the scenes to help me, and the preparation he puts into every game and training session. Now with his second season ahead of him I’m certain we’ll see the team move forward and improve on last season which is all I can ask.”

This coming campaign will be Clifford’s eighth consecutive season coaching in Milton Keynes after winning the EPL Cup and EPL Playoffs during six years as an Assistant Coach with MK Lightning.

“I’m delighted to be coming back and having another crack at this ever evolving, ever improving league,” Clifford said. “Last year was a rollercoaster, it had all the ups and downs you get used to in hockey, but once the dust settled and I had time to reflect on the season with a clear mind, I realised we have built a very strong foundation.

“Last year we didn’t win enough games. I’m not a perfectionist, but I have levels of expectation on myself and my team and we didn’t meet them every single night — however, we did meet them more often than not, and it was literally a small handful of times that we struggled to at least make an impact in a game.”

A versatile forward during his playing career, Clifford made over 240 appearances in a Thunder shirt along with dressing for Oxford City Stars and Lightning before picking up the clipboard and whistle.

In addition to learning the coaching ropes with one of the EPL’s all-time successful franchises, Clifford has also worked behind the bench of the South West U15’s regional all-star team and oversees all age groups of the Milton Keynes junior ice hockey club as Head of Development.

“The team needs to evolve,” Clifford said of the work ahead of him this summer. “Without stating the obvious too much, we didn’t score enough goals and we gave up too many scoring chances, both areas I must address during the recruitment for next year’s team.

“We are competing with teams with significantly higher resources than ourselves, and with that comes it’s own challenges. But the situation we are in isn’t about to change, so alongside Dave, we will put together the best team we possibly can to entertain our growing bunch of loyal fans as much as possible next season.”

Prospective players for 2018-19 are invited to register their interest in playing for Thunder next season by contacting Fairhurst at manager@mkthunder.com and Clifford at headcoach@mkthunder.com.