By Tom Hurley
MK Thunder continue the NIHL South 1 season this weekend with a road trip to face Cardiff Fire on Saturday and a home showdown with Peterborough Phantoms Sunday.
Cardiff (0-2-0 NIHL) return top-scoring imports Robert Sedlak and Tamas Elias from the roster that won all 14 NIHL South West 2 games the Welshmen played last season.
The Fire added experience over the summer in the form of ex-Cardiff Devils, Sheffield Steelers and Thunder forward Nicky Chinn, and EPL veteran defenseman Bradley Watchorn. Former Devil Phil Manny re-signed as did top assists scorer Jordan Powell.
Cardiff opened their season last weekend with a 4-1 home defeat to Invicta Dynamos and a 9-2 loss at Streatham.
“They’re not gonna be easy,” Clifford said. “They’re not gonna roll over for us, especially in their own rink.
“Cardiff teams are historically tough to beat in their own rink – this weekend’s gonna be no different. We’ve got to go there with the aim of getting two points and doing whatever it takes.”
While Clifford and his men are in Wales, Peterborough Phantoms (1-0-0 NIHL) host Streatham after opening their league campaign with a 4-2 home win over Bracknell Bees.
The Phantoms roster includes several faces familiar to MKT including MK junior club graduates Leigh Jamieson, Edward Knaggs and Ben Russell. Head Coach Slava Koulikov spent time with MK Kings in his playing days and the Phantoms won eight EPL trophies before joining the NIHL for this season.
“Streatham and MK Thunder are two teams we haven’t faced before and ideally we would like to win both games,” Koulikov said to Peterborough Today.
“We’ve had a good home record in the last three years and that will be important again. We’re also looking to get results on the road.”
Jamieson and former Nottingham Panthers and MK Lightning defensemen Tom Norton are just two of several vastly experienced players in the Peterborough lineup.
Lithuanian national team alternate captain Darius Pliskauskas scored 134 points in the last two EPL seasons, with two-time Czech international forward Alex Padelek racking up 128.
“We’re playing against a team that everyone thinks is gonna to blow us away,” Clifford said. “On paper, maybe should. In budget, certainly should – but that’s no excuse. Once the pucks drops it’s five guys on the ice against five guys … and we’re there to compete. We’re not there to roll over for anyone – especially in our own barn.
Saturday’s 6:30 p.m. game in Cardiff will be streamed live by Icesports.tv for £8 in advance and £10 if purchased on game day. Tickets for Sunday’s 6:30 p.m. face off with Peterborough Phantoms are priced at £9 Adults, £5 Concessions/MKL season tickets, and £1 Under 16s.