Milton Keynes native Hallden Barnes-Garner will return for a second consecutive season of Second Division ice hockey with MK Thunder after agreeing terms on a contract extension for the 2018-19 season.
“It’s great to be resigning with Thunder,” Barnes-Garner said. “There’s a great group of boys and that was a key factor in re-signing. It also means a lot that it’s my hometown.
“I feel like last season we had many ups and downs and learned a lot. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy going into the league and we didn’t know exactly what to expect, but now having that under our belts I feel like we can really excel this coming season.”
MKT Head Coach Lewis Clifford is happy to have secured the signature of a young man he’s seen develop from junior ice hockey with MK Storm into a Second Division player on his hometown club.
“I’ve said before and will say again — this team relies on local talent,” Clifford said. “Without it we wouldn’t have a team.
“Hallden is still young and has a lot to learn but he is moving in the right direction and if he continues to listen and learn he will be an asset to this team for a number of years.”
“It’s great to have Hallden back in the lineup,” Clifford said. “He did a great job in the main last year and I’m looking for him to take another step forward in his development this year and contribute more all over the ice.
“Hallden has a lot of raw talent. He has a good touch around the net and a solid skillset. He is willing to stick up for his teammates and provides us with a physical presence and some toughness when we need it — and this is another string he has to his bow as and when we need him to use it.”
In 2017-18 the powerful forward suited up in 31 games with the Red & Black between the NIHL South 1 regular season and playoffs. This coming campaign the regular season will see a record 42 games as the league shifts to a three home, three away format after the withdrawal of Cardiff Fire.
“This summer is a really important one for myself,” Barnes-Garner said. “I didn’t have the best of seasons last year and I’m coming into this year to really try and improve on last season.
“I’ve been working on my fitness and speed as I feel like that’s where I could mostly improve on.
“I thinks it’s always key to have a good start and so I think we should go for it. It will be hard as no game will be easy this year but with our hard work I believe a lot can be achieve.”
“‘Hard work beats talent when talent isn’t working hard.’ It being a 42-game season I think it’s important we look after our bodies and stay healthy so that we can go into every game with our full side and have no excuses.”
Clifford has stressed to his squad the vitality of looking after themselves over the summer as they recovered from last season and began preparations for the upcoming 42-game league season.
“It’s more important than ever this season,” Clifford said. “The league continues to improve and as our team gets younger and faster, the style of play we will be adopting will rely on everyone being able to play hard all night, every night.”
Barnes-Garner grew up watching Second Division hockey in Milton Keynes, aiming to one day play alongside the players he’d watch every Saturday night in the old English Premier League.
“It means a lot for me to play in front of the MK supporters,” Barnes-Garner said. “When I was a kid I watched a lot of these guys on my team like Bowers, TC, and G; and I always wanted to know what it’s like playing senior level hockey in MK.
“Now I’m there I just want to give the fans everything, so do the rest of the boys on the team. Our fans were great last season and if they can do the same and get behind the team it would be a real motivation for us boys.”