By Tom Hurley
MK Thunder geared up for the National Ice Hockey League season with a 13-1 preseason win over Bristol Pitbulls at Planet Ice on Saturday.
The home side’s speed, tenacity and slick passing caused Bristol problems from the off with Tom Carlon and Grant McPherson going close before Ross Bowers scored the opening goal four minutes into the game.
It was soon 2-0 courtesy of Hallden Barnes-Garner, with Rio Garnell-Parke adding a third midway through the first period after stealing the puck on the blue line and firing it into the roof of Ross Miller’s net.
Bowers collected a Jamie Line pass early in the second period and fired a one-timer through the five-hole for a 4-0 lead.
It was soon 6-0 to the home side thanks to goals from Harrison and Connor Goode. Harrison first burying a rebound from Greg Randall’s fierce shot, then Connor deflecting an effort from Luke Reynolds as Bristol struggled to cope with the relentless pressure from the home side.
Tom Carlon twisted through several defenders before deking Miller and making it a 7-0 game halfway through the second period. Garnell-Parke hit the post with a similar move just after, then it was McPherson’s turn to go one better as his fancy stickwork saw Thunder take an 8-0 lead.
Buoyed by a big body check on Tom Mboya into the visiting bench, Bristol found the net when the impressive Logan Prince set up Jaime Newton to poke home from close range. The Goode brothers then worked together down the left wing as Connor fed Harrison to restore Thunder’s eight-goal cushion.
Michael Hargreaves caught Mboya with a high stick late in the second, and on the ensuing power play Randall found the top corner to give MK a 10-1 lead after two periods.
Only the post could deny Harrison Goode his hat trick as the third period got underway as Bristol dropped back into a defensive style and invited further Thunder attacks. Garnell-Parke, Mboya and Ryan Handisides all went close before young goalie Josh Crane denied Prince at the other end.
Carlon saw the speeding McPherson at center ice with five minutes remaining and the Scottish forward went in on the breakaway to send a backhanded into the roof of the net for 11-1. It was then McPherson’s turn to set up Carlon, who showed his hand-eye coordination to bat the puck home for his second of the night.
Man-of-the-Match Garnell-Parke was denied by a pad save on the goal line before Mboya rounded off the scoring on the powerplay to give Thunder the 13-1 winning score line.
Thunder’s first-year Head Coach Lewis Clifford was ‘encouraged’ by his team’s opening game of the 2017/18 season.
“It was a great 60 minutes under our belts against a hard-working Bristol team,” Clifford said.
“I was encouraged by the speed we showed and the passing at times was crisp. There’s a lot of things we still need to work on but that performance is a good way to start our campaign.”