By Tom Hurley
Head coach Lewis Clifford is prepared to go up against two of NIHL South 1’s high flyers this weekend, with Thunder travelling to Peterborough Phantoms on Saturday, and hosting Basingstoke Bison at Planet Ice on Sunday.
Peterborough (9-1-1 NIHL) fell to their first regulation loss of the season last weekend when London Raiders skated out of Bretton with a 6-3 victory. Slava Koulikov’s men bounced back on Sunday with a 5-4 road win at Swindon Wildcats.
Saturday night will see Thunder and Phantoms meet for the second time this season, after Peterborough got the better of MKT in Milton Keynes last month.
“It was an intense game in MK,” Koulikov said to Peterborough Today. “Teams always have that bit of extra motivation in a derby game and I don’t expect Saturday to be any different. It was also a very tough game as we were behind at one stage in the second period before we managed to get ourselves back ahead and kill it off in the third.”
Nathan Salem sits fourth in NIHL South 1 with 24 points in 11 games, he’s followed in the Phantoms scoring charts by Will Weldon and ex-MK Lightning man Leigh Jamieson who both have 18 points in league play.
Basingstoke (8-0-0 NIHL) make the trip to Planet Ice eight days after facing Thunder in their own barn in a game that saw them continue their unbeaten start to the league season.
NIHL Cup defeats to Bracknell Bees, Swindon Wildcats, and Telford Tigers (twice) show that the Bison can be beaten, and Clifford is aiming to be the first coach to knock off the former Elite League team in regular season play this year.
Import forwards Tomas Karpov and Ivan Antonov sit second and sixth in league scoring with 29 points and 18 points respectively, and Clifford knows the task facing his squad this weekend.
“I think they were the best team we’ve played against so far this season,” Clifford said of Basingstoke. “They’ve got some players who, given time and space, will tear you apart.
“We’re always up for the challenge. Saturday’s the priority right now for us — we have to go to Peterborough and try and get a result.”
Sunday night’s home clash with Basingstoke Bison is scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. face off at Planet Ice. Tickets are priced at £9 Adults, £5 Concessions/MKL Season Ticket Holders, and £1 Under 16s. Saturday night’s game in Peterborough gets underway at 7 p.m.