MK Thunder’s top goalscorer Rio Grinell-Parke has re-signed for Lewis Clifford’s men for the upcoming 2018-19 NIHL South 1 season.
Teenager Grinell-Parke lit the lamp 13 times in Thunder’s maiden season in the second tier of British ice hockey on his way to 16 points last year.
“It’s great to have Rio back,” Clifford said. “Obviously as a team we are always looking to evolve and improve, and keeping last season’s top goal scorer is a huge part of that.”
“Rio grew up a lot throughout last season, he started buying in more to what we were trying to do and was a huge part of the team.
“He started to make the transition from being a kid with potential to being a player who was expected to perform and I can only see that continuing this season as he matures both physically and emotionally.”
The 19-year-old forward joined MK a year ago following spells with London Raiders and Bracknell Bees competing in the NIHL and EPL respectively. Left-handed shot Grinell-Parke said the backroom team and the MKT fans played a big part in his return for 2018-19.
“I wanted to stay with the Thunder because there’s a great support base from the fans — who always turned up despite the challenges we face — and of course a great bunch of teammates that are supportive,” Grinell-Parke said. “And the staff behind the scenes are a massive help so it will be nice to be back in that environment again.”
In his first season in an MKT jersey the young speedster was selected to the Great Britain Under 20 World Championships standby list, having previously represented his country at U18 level in international play.
“This season will be the second year of the new structure so we have some what of an idea of how the intensity has to be against every team,” Grinell-Parke said. “So I’m looking forward to playing with some of the same people from last year.
“Personally I’m looking forward to challenging myself once again. I’ve taken on board the things I need to improve on, so hopefully I can make a bigger impact this year.”
Grinell-Parke is Clifford’s sixth signing this summer, the fourth roster signee to still be a teenager, and the sixth British signing with international experience. MKT’s backroom staff showing once again that Milton Keynes is the place in NIHL for young talent to get an opportunity to shine.
“The way our team is built and funded we have to rely a lot on bringing through young players,” Clifford said. “Guys who need a chance to play at this level and a platform to show what they can do whilst learning the ropes of a senior hockey season and all that brings with it.
“We have to get the balance right between youth and experience, but alongside that I have to know that the people I’m signing have the right personalities on and off the ice.
“I know Rio and what he brings. I was happy to see the progress he made last year and look forward to seeing that continue.”
Much like the rest of his teammates old and new, the Londoner is back in the gym and focusing on preparations for the season ahead.
“I’m excited to come back because of how challenging the season is going to be,” Grinell-Parke said. “We also have a relatively young team so I think we will no doubt have a lot of energy to put to good use as well as experience from the older players.
“I’m looking forward to be back in the MK Thunder environment and putting on the shirt again.”