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.