MK Thunder head coach Lewis Clifford has secured his second goaltender for the 2018-19 NIHL South 1 season with the return of 19-year-old Josh Crane.
The exciting British prospect has re-signed for a second season in Milton Keynes after making his Thunder bow last year on a two-way contract with Coventry Blaze NIHL2 and U20s.
“I’m really excited to be returning to the Thunder for a second season,” Crane said. “Last season was a real eye-opener for me and throughout all the highs and lows the fans were there all the way. I can’t wait to perform in front of these fans and for this team again.”
Clifford is thrilled to welcome Crane back to Milton Keynes after a whirlwind first full season of senior hockey that included emergency call-ups to dress in the Elite League.
“Josh is a top lad,” Clifford said. “He’s young and keen and he is a good guy to have around the team. He’s got tonnes of potential and at the age he’s at now he has a chance to really push on in his career and develop into a top British goalie.”
The youngster spent the majoity of his first season with the Red & Black learning from veterans Tom Annetts and Mark Woolf, stepping in between the pipes on a handful of occasions to impressive reviews from supporters around the country.
“Last year I learnt a lot from Woolfie and Tommy,” Crane said. “Woolfie was a great team guy and perfect role model for a young goalie like me. Tommy had an amazing year and watching him perform so well each week inspired me and taught me a lot”
Crane earned a win in his first ever NIHL 1 start when he guarded the goal crease in Thunder colours for the first time back in November, making 22 saves in the 4-2 victory.
“He is a good lad,” Clifford said. “Last year Josh knew his role and was always supportive of his goalie colleagues, and when called upon he performed well.
“I certainly saw him develop off the ice, he found his feet as a member of a senior team and became a huge part of the squad.
“This season I don’t want him to be content to be a backup, I want him to show me in practice that he wants to be in the net at the weekend, providing competition for Tommy and challenging our shooters in every situation every night.”
In addition to dressing for 23 Thunder games in 2017-18, Crane made eight starts for Coventry Blaze NIHL along with seeing action with Coventry U20 on top of his Elite League adventures.
“Playing hockey at any level can’t be a bad thing for a young player,” Clifford said. “Last year, Josh was able to get in the net a lot across the leagues he was involved in and that will only bode well for him.
“However he needs to be in the net at the highest possible level at every given opportunity, and the level of this league now is very high, he just needs to push hard to be in there as often as he can.”
A season of countless highlights ended in spectacular fashion when Crane led a Coventry U20’s team featuring MKT teammate Ollie Lord to the British U20 national title.
“Winning a national championship was a great experience,” Crane said. “After losing to Fife the year before, beating them in the final was a great feeling.
“Also getting Man-of-the-Match was a huge honour but there were a lot of huge performances that day, one from Lordy as well. Lordy is also a character in the dressing room, he’s a great guy to have in the team and I’m just fortunate to have played on his team for some years.”
The 6-foot-1 shot stopper has now graduated from junior hockey and will be focusing fully on men’s league hockey for the first time in his career this coming season.
“Personally, I’m really looking forward to building on last year,” Crane said. “It was a really fun year and I want to be as big a part of the next one as possible.
“As a team as well, Cliff has found a lot of young talent and some great experienced players that the young players can learn from. I’m really excited to see what we’re capable of.
“The MK setup is a great one to be a part of, the dressing room has a great atmosphere. All the management, coaches players and staff are great to be around. It’s brilliant.”