A win and defeat for free-scoring Thunder

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IT’S two victories and two defeats to start the new English National Ice Hockey League season for MK Thunder who again won one and lost one at the weekend.

After an opening day home drubbing by Romford Raiders and thoroughly convincing away win at Streatham Redskins, Thunder continued their impressive goal-scoring form with a 9-2 thrashing of Bracknell Hornets on Saturday before slipping to a 5-2 defeat at Oxford City Stars on Sunday.

Slovak forward Maros Stefanco opened the scoring for the home side after five minutes against Hornets with a superb finish on the powerplay.

Thunder went on to dominate much of the period, but Bracknell managed to hold firm and equalised when youngster Ryan Webb raced through to beat Thunder goalie Dave Cassidy.

But MK regained the lead just 22 seconds later when Martyn Snape’s shot found the back of the net to ensure a slender lead going in to the first break. Stefanco then extended the lead just 40 seconds after the restart before young defenceman Nidal Phillips further compounded the visitors’ misery two minutes later when he took the score to 4-1.

Connor Goode grabbed the first of his brace with four minutes left in the period to give the hosts a convincing 5-1 margin heading in to the final frame.

Early goals from captain Jamie Randall and Goode’s second moved the score to 7-1 before Danny Hughes grabbed a consolation effort for the visitors only for Stefanco to complete his hat-trick and restore the six goal cushion three minutes later.

Summer signing Steve Maile then completed the rout with a powerplay goal three minutes from time to wrap up one of the Thunder’s best ever results against the Berkshire outfit.

It wasn’t such a good performance the follow day at Oxford though. A scrappy opening period saw the two sides trade chances but both Thunder stopper Dave Cassidy and Oxford’s Chris Douglas were in fine form to keep the scores level until Dax Hedges managed to squeeze the puck passed Cassidy 37 seconds from the end of the period.

A series of minor penalties prevented Thunder from gaining any ground in the middle frame as the two teams continued to seek a way past their opponents. Once again it was the home side who struck late in the period though, firstly through team captain Darren Elliott and then via a powerplay goal from former Swindon player Gareth Endicott.

A much improved third period effort from the Thunder saw them begin to claw their way back into the game and when man of the match Stefanco redirected Dave Coffey’s shot past Douglas it gave the Thunder a much needed boost.

Now with the bit between their teeth, MK drove forward and pulled another goal back when Stefanco tapped home from close range.

However, Oxford regained their three goal lead when Wayne Fiddes converted on the powerplay following a harsh interference call on Thunder’s Sam Fairhurst, and they were able to close out the game to pick up an important win in front of their fans.

Their early season efforts currently see Thunder sitting third in the table, albeit having played more games than most of the rest. This weekend sees only one outing – a home game against Cardiff Devils on Saturday.