By Tom Hurley
MK Thunder complete preparations for the new ice hockey season on Sunday with a preseason game against Bristol Pitbulls at Planet Ice.
A league reshuffle in the summer means Thunder will play in the second-tier National Ice Hockey League (South) this season, along with ex-EPL sides Peterborough Phantoms, Swindon Wildcats, Basingstoke Bison, and Bracknell Bees.
Despite operating on a smaller budget than rival teams, first-year Head Coach Lewis Clifford has assembled a competitive squad — including several former MK Lightning players.
Captain Jamie Line, veteran Ross Bowers and defensemen Ross Green all return from last year’s roster, as do Connor Goode, Harrison Goode, Tom Mboya, Alex Whyte, and Nidal Phillips.
Fresh from winning two trophies with MK Lightning last season, Lewis Christie, Tom Carlon, and Grant McPherson will lace up for Thunder alongside fellow MKL alum Greg Randall.
Elite League experience was added in the form of ex-Cardiff Devil Rupert Quiney, with Gareth O’Flaherty joining from Telford Tigers and Ryan Handisides from Bracknell Hornets.
Goalie Mark Woolf returns for his 15th and final season with Thunder to backup Tom Annetts, signed from Oxford City Stars.
Youngsters Hallden Barnes-Garner, Oliver Lord, Josh Crane, Conor Hutchison and Rio Grinell-Parke — who featured for Lightning versus Coventry Blaze last weekend— round out the lineup.
Bristol return every player from the squad that made the NIHL second division play-off semifinals last season, including top scorer Oliver Shone and Player/Coach Richard Hargreaves.
Face-off for Sunday’s game at Planet Ice is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., with tickets available at the door priced at £9 Adults, £5 Concessions, £1 Under 16s.
MK Lightning season ticket holders are eligible for a £4 discount on Adult tickets.