MAX Birbraer hopes Swindon Wildcats can carry last season’s title-winning momentum into the new season as they start the 2019-20 campaign tonight.

Aaron Nell’s sides were crowned NIHL South One champions last term before a re-jig of British ice hockey’s second tier was undertaken over the summer.

Instead of regionalised divisions, the Cats will compete in a new 10-team National League – starting with a home clash against London side Raiders at the Link Centre this evening.

Despite the change in competition, this season will not be a trip into the unknown for Swindon as they have faced eight of their nine league rivals within the past three years – the only exception being Leeds Chiefs.

Therefore, forward Birbraer says there is no need for trepidation in the camp and he is keen for the Cats to set their standards high from the off.

“It is extremely important to start well but we have the same group of guys together, so hopefully we can pick up where we left off last season,” said Birbraer.

“The mentality for all the teams in the league is probably the same right across the board. Everyone – barring the new Leeds team – is in the same scenario as last season.

“Although it is billed as a higher level, its probably the same standard in terms of the teams and players who were already in the league.”

The first home and away match against each opposition also doubles up as a National Cup fixture, which makes a fast start to the season all the more important.

As a senior figure in the locker room, 38-year-old Birbraer will stress to his team-mates that they cannot afford to ease themselves in the season gently.

Birbraer said: “It is important we hit the ground running as want to know where we are at, especially with the games being doubled up in the cup in the first few weeks.

“Hopefully we can do well right from the off.”