Thunder ready for ‘tough’ Cardiff Fire challenge

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By Tom Hurley

Thunder return to NIHL South 1 action on Sunday when Cardiff Fire visit Milton Keynes for a 6:30 p.m. face off at Planet Ice.

Lewis Clifford’s squad enjoyed a well-earned rest last weekend after picking up two points over the weekend of Nov. 11 and 12 when MKT faced title favourites Peterborough Phantoms and Basingstoke Bison.

Cardiff (0-14-0 NIHL) enter the contest on the back of a 5-1 defeat to Swindon Wildcats in the Welsh capital last Sunday, which followed a narrow 5-3 loss to Streatham IHC on home ice on Nov. 5.

The Fire stepped up to NIHL South 1 this year after gaining promotion from the second division last season, and have so far found life difficult in the second tier of British ice hockey. Cardiff have seen steady improvement, however, and will bring an improved unit to Milton Keynes than the side that lost 6-0 to Thunder in South Wales earlier in the campaign.

Thunder forward Rio Grinell-Parke says he expects to face a hard-working and physical team when the two clubs meet again on Sunday.

“I don’t think it’s gonna be an easy game,” Grinell-Parke said. “It was tough when we played them at Cardiff. They’re a pretty tough team, they’re constantly on you, they finish checks. They’re definitely gonna make us work for the win.”

Former Coventry Blaze and Cardiff Devils forward Samuel Smith leads the Fire with eight points in nine games, with ex-Swindon Wildcats and Manchester Phoenix youngster Michael Stratford second in scoring with five goals and two assists.

Thunder (5-6-3 NIHL) teenagers Josh Crane and Grinell-Parke enter the game buoyed by the news they have made GB U20 head coach Slava Koulikov’s reserve list fo the upcoming World Championships in Dumfries, Scotland.

The red and black are led in scoring by Ross Bowers on 14 points, with captain Jamie Line sitting on 13 points, and Grinell-Parke not far behind with 10 points on the season.

Tickets for Sunday’s game are priced at £9 Adults, £5 Concessions/MKL season ticket holders, and £1 Under 16s. Follow @thunder_mk on Twitter for score updates from Planet Ice from 6:30 p.m. onwards.

Josh Crane excited by GB U20s call-up

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Highlights: P’boro Phantoms vs MK Thunder

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Clifford: GB U20 recognition richly deserved

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By Tom Hurley

Thunder head coach Lewis Clifford was shining with pride after the news that two of his young players have been named as GB U20 reserves for the upcoming Division Two World Championships.

Rio Grinell-Parke, 18, and Josh Crane, 19, are on standby to attend pre-tournament camp and the World Championships itself after GB U20 head coach Slava Koulikov announced his roster Friday.

“I know both the guys would want to be in the squad at this stage, but it’s a great honour to be named in the national team, even as a reserve,” Clifford said. “I’m sure they will both be ready to join the team should the need arise. Both of the lads turn up every night ready to work hard in practice and games and they deserve recognition for this.”

The duo are two of seven players on Clifford’s roster aged 23 and under that are playing key roles in the team’s first season in the second tier of British ice hockey.

“As a club it’s important to us that our young players are recognised for their contributions,” Clifford said. “Both Rio and Josh play big parts in this team and will go on to great things in their career if they keep their feet on the ground and their work rate at the level it is at now.”

Koulikov’s squad is due to meet on Dec. 5 ahead of the World Championships that take place in Dumfries, Scotland. The tournament itself runs until Dec. 16, meaning the young Thunder duo would likely be unavailable for the NIHL South 1 games with Basingstoke Bison and Streatham IHC.

“Should there be any unfortunate injuries to any of the squad — while we would undoubtedly miss either of the guys over the course of the championships — we would be delighted to see them travel to Dumfries and pull on the GB jersey,” Clifford said.

Grinell-Parke and Crane will next wear the red and black of Thunder against Cardiff Fire on Sunday, Nov. 26. Face off at Planet Ice MK is set for 6:30 p.m., with tickets priced at £9 Adults, £5 Concessions/MK Lightning season ticket holders, and £1 Under 16s.

Crane, Grinell-Parke named GB U20 reserves

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By Tom Hurley

Great Britain Under 20s head coach Slava Koulikov has named Thunder duo Josh Crane and Rio Grinell-Parke as reserves for the upcoming Division Two World Championships.

Netminder Crane and forward Grinell-Parke attended trials in Sheffield earlier this week, and are now on standby to link up with Koulikov’s squad from Dec. 5-16. The team will meet for training camp, and then the World Championships — which will be held in Dumfries, Scotland.

Crane joined Thunder on a two-way contract at the start of the season as backup to veteran Tom Annetts. In addition to his role with MKT, Crane also plays and trains with Coventry U20s and the NIHL North 2 Coventry Blaze.

The Solihull youth academy product made his NIHL South 1 debut at Basingstoke earlier this month, and also featured in the preseason win over Bristol Pitbulls.

Former London Raiders and Bracknell Bees frontman Grinell-Parke has scored nine goals in 13 games for Thunder so far in 2017-18. He also appeared for MK Lightning during preseason, seeing ice time against Elite League opposition.

Grinell-Parke featured for Great Britain Under 18s during last season’s D2 World Championships, scoring once in five games as his team missed out on a bronze medal by one point.

Thunder’s next game is a home clash with Cardiff Fire on Sunday, Nov., 26. Face off at Planet Ice is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tickets are priced at £9 Adults, £5 Concessions/MKL Season Ticket Holders, and £1 Under 16s.