MK Thunder’s Lewis Clifford Secures GB Youth International Michael Stratford

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Roster

Former Great Britain youth international Michael Stratford has agreed terms with Thunder head coach Lewis Clifford to return to Milton Keynes for the upcoming 2018-19 NIHL South 1 season.

“It was a no brainer coming back to MK this year as I was so welcomed last year,” Stratford said. “What I really liked is how every single one of the boys in the room always put in 110% every shift. I just couldn’t say no to being a part of that again when Cliff asked me to come back.”
The 21-year-old scored 10 points in 15 games for Cardiff Fire at the front end of last season before making the switch to Thunder in January. Despite the midseason transfer, Stratford ended the season as the Fire’s leader in goals and points.
“I was so welcomed by everyone in MK when I arrived half way through last year,” he said. “Not just the boys, but the management and also the fans.”
Swindon-born Stratford collected four points in eight regular season games in a Thunder jersey last season before finding the back of the net during the Playoffs Quarterfinals series with Peterborough Phantoms.

“When we bought Stratty in half way though last season it gave us a lift straight away,” Clifford said. “He’s a guy who knows how to score and you can never have too many of those.”

Second-year head coach Clifford made bringing the 6-foot-4 offensive talent back to MK was one of his main priorities heading into the offseason.
“Stratty is a great kid who wants to do his best for the team every time he pulls on the jersey,” Clifford said. “That, coupled with his ability, makes him an asset I had to try and keep hold of.
“I’ve already spoken about the fact we have to make some changes to keep moving forward and evolving as a team, however Stratty was high up my ‘keep’ list and I’m delighted to have him back on board but for a whole season this time.”
Prior to signing for Thunder last season, Straford also laced his skates in the English Premier League with Swindon Wildcats and Manchester Phoenix in addition to spells with Great Britain U18s and U20s. Now the one-time Swindon and Okanagan junior will get the opportunity to focus on the challenges ahead and playing his first full season with MKT.
“Personally for me it’s just getting back playing again after having the summer off and improving as much as I can,” Stratford said. “I’m looking forward to meeting the new boys on the team and build on what we had going last year. I’m excited to pull on the jersey again and get started.”

End of Season Awards Night

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Thunder’s 2017-18 End of Season Awards Night will take place in the Tag Taylor Bar & Grill at Planet Ice on Saturday April 21.

The evening gets underway at 7:30 p.m. with entrance free to all supporters.

In addition to the annual awards presented to players, the night will see the 2017-18 own & loan jersey sponsors presented with their shirts from the season.

Food and drink will be available and the MK Thunder Supporters Club have ensured some fantastic prizes for the raffle.

We hope to see you there for what is always a not-to-be-missed event!

Lewis Clifford Returns As Thunder Head Coach

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

MK Thunder ice hockey club are thrilled to reveal that Lewis Clifford will return for a second season as head coach in 2018-19.

The Milton Keynes native took over the reins in 2017-18 and guided the team to a playoff berth as Thunder stepped up to the second tier of British hockey for the first time.

“I’m delighted that Cliff has agreed to continue as head coach next season,” said MK Thunder GM Dave Fairhurst. “It’s an unfinished journey we set out on a year ago and I look forward to working with him again as we seek to establish Thunder as a real force in this league.”

Clifford led Thunder to a 7th placed finish in NIHL South 1 in his maiden season with a squad comprised of local talent, exciting prospects, and a host of experienced names familiar to Elite League and EPL hockey.

“As a group we all made mistakes last season, especially with our home form,” Fairhurst said. “But overall we achieved our pre-season goal of being competitive against every team in the league if not the one of being a .500 team. Cliff recognises our shortcomings but in his first season as a head coach at this level he recruited well and developed our younger players throughout the season while rightly relying on our experienced players in tight games.”

The MK junior ice hockey club graduate saw four of his young players receive international call-ups in his first year behind the Thunder bench, and Fairhurst is looking forward to the pair building on the foundations laid in 2017-18.

“I have a tremendous working relationship with Cliff, what a lot of people don’t see is the huge amount of work he does behind the scenes to help me, and the preparation he puts into every game and training session. Now with his second season ahead of him I’m certain we’ll see the team move forward and improve on last season which is all I can ask.”

This coming campaign will be Clifford’s eighth consecutive season coaching in Milton Keynes after winning the EPL Cup and EPL Playoffs during six years as an Assistant Coach with MK Lightning.

“I’m delighted to be coming back and having another crack at this ever evolving, ever improving league,” Clifford said. “Last year was a rollercoaster, it had all the ups and downs you get used to in hockey, but once the dust settled and I had time to reflect on the season with a clear mind, I realised we have built a very strong foundation.

“Last year we didn’t win enough games. I’m not a perfectionist, but I have levels of expectation on myself and my team and we didn’t meet them every single night — however, we did meet them more often than not, and it was literally a small handful of times that we struggled to at least make an impact in a game.”

A versatile forward during his playing career, Clifford made over 240 appearances in a Thunder shirt along with dressing for Oxford City Stars and Lightning before picking up the clipboard and whistle.

In addition to learning the coaching ropes with one of the EPL’s all-time successful franchises, Clifford has also worked behind the bench of the South West U15’s regional all-star team and oversees all age groups of the Milton Keynes junior ice hockey club as Head of Development.

“The team needs to evolve,” Clifford said of the work ahead of him this summer. “Without stating the obvious too much, we didn’t score enough goals and we gave up too many scoring chances, both areas I must address during the recruitment for next year’s team.

“We are competing with teams with significantly higher resources than ourselves, and with that comes it’s own challenges. But the situation we are in isn’t about to change, so alongside Dave, we will put together the best team we possibly can to entertain our growing bunch of loyal fans as much as possible next season.”

Prospective players for 2018-19 are invited to register their interest in playing for Thunder next season by contacting Fairhurst at manager@mkthunder.com and Clifford at headcoach@mkthunder.com.

Defensive Duo Get International Call

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Tickets

By Tom Hurley

Thunder defensemen Alex Whyte and Oliver Lord will conclude the 2017-18 season in national team colours after the pair received call-ups to represent their country.

Lord has been named in the England U19 squad that will travel to Bratislava next month for a training camp and two games against Romania U18s.

Whyte will suit up for the Great Britain Universities team in Sheffield on April 20 against an International All Stars side, with face off set for 7:30 p.m.

Earlier in the day, MK Falcons’ pair Bea Lester and Monica Petrosino will feature for the GBU Women’s team in the same venue.

Lord and Whyte join Rio Grinell-Parke and Josh Crane as Thunder players to get international nods this season, after the latter were selected as reserves for GB U20s earlier in the year.

Everyone at Thunder congratulates Oliver, Alex, Bea, and Monica on their fantastic achievements and we wish them the best when they represent their country in April.

FINAL SCORE

Scoreboard

Team1st2nd3rdF
MK Thunder1102
P’boro Phantoms3317