By Tom Hurley
MK Thunder begin life in British hockey’s second tier this weekend, starting with the 2017/18 home opener against Bracknell Bees at Planet Ice on Saturday night.
Bracknell roll into Milton Keynes for their first NIHL game after collecting fourtrophies during 12 seasons in the English Premier League.
Czech forward Frantisek Bakrlik and goaltender Alex Mettam return to Planet Ice after spells with MK Lightning to face a Thunder team that features six former Bees.
Bracknell played two preseason games against Swindon Wildcats last weekend, losing 4-2 at The Link Center on Saturday before claiming a 5-3 at The Hive the next night. Bakrlik led the Bees with five points across the two games with Shaun Thompson and Matt Foord picking up three points each.
Speaking to The Bracknell News, Bees Head Coach Scott Spearing said facing the Thunder ‘will be tough.’
“They’ve kept a lot of good guys from (MK) Lightning and brought back some experienced players,” Spearing said. “Hopefully we can go there and win.”
On Sunday Head Coach Lewis Clifford and his team travel to Gillingham for a 5:15 p.m. face off with seven–time NIHL South champions Invicta Dynamos.
The 2017 Playoff Winners’ roster includes ex-Thunder goalie Damien King and the NIHL South’s second-highest point scorer last season, import forward Adam Rehak. The Dynamos start their season at Basingstoke Bison on Saturday night.
“I’m excited about what the weekend will bring” Clifford said. “We know we are going to have two tough battles on our hands but every weekend is going to be like that in the new-look league.”
Two-way defenseman Oliver Lord will miss Saturday’s game to ice for Coventry Blaze Under 20s, while Ross Green returns to the lineup after missing last Saturday’s preseason win over Bristol Pitbulls.
“We had a really positive training session this week” Clifford said. “The guys looked sharp and quick out there and we went over a lot of things we needed to cover ahead of the weekend. We are taking it one game at a time, currently all the focus is on the Bracknell game on Saturday – we can start worrying about Sunday once we have dealt with business against the Bees.”
Saturday night’s game with Bracknell Bees is scheduled for a 7 p.m. face off at Planet Ice. Tickets are priced £9 Adults, £5 Concessions/MK Lightning season ticket holders, and £1 Under 16s.