WITH eight of the National League’s 10 teams set to feature in the end-of-season play-offs this term, Swindon Wildcats player-coach Aaron Nell accepts winning the league is the best way to boast his team’s strength.

Of course, Wildcats’ campaign is still in its early stages – only 10 out of 52 regular season games have been completed.

The thought of winning back-to-back title has consequently – and understandably – not even entered Nell’s mindset yet, perhaps wait until late February or early March for that to come into play.

But with all teams playing 62 games - almost 4,000 minutes of hockey - during the season, Nell appreciates the team that finishes top of the pile in five months’ time will no doubt be worthy of their National League crown.

Wildcats are one of seven teams in the division that have yielded at least one point-per-game from their opening block of fixtures.

They share the division’s top spot with Telford – who have one game in hand – on 16 points while Bracknell trail the leading pack with nine points from as many games.

Raiders, Milton Keynes Lightning and Leeds Chiefs find themselves tailed off slightly and squabbling over the final play-off frame position.

Nell said: “The league is the biggest trophy to win – it’s the one all teams want to win.

“I’m certain a few teams still believe they can win it after the first month. There are still 42 games to go, that’s a lot of hockey.

“We’ll take it a weekend at a time.

“The strength in the division is much better to last season. Leeds last weekend proved that.

“They’re bottom of the table, but pushed us hard at home – if you’re not at your best you won’t win.

“Changes to the structure have been good, and other coaches are enjoying it more too having talked to them.”

Cats’ so-far encouraging campaign continues on Saturday when struggling Milton Keynes Lightning visit the Link Centre.

The former Elite League outfit, who on Wednesday announced former England U19 skater Tom Carlon as their latest signing, will no doubt be boosted by their 3-4 win at London Raiders on Sunday.

That win lifted Lightning off the foot of the 10-team table. And Nell admits his roster must be cautious of the threats Saturday’s visitors can pose.

He added: “Milton Keynes have had a tough start to the season.

“But they’ve suffered with injuries and picked up a big win against Raiders on Sunday to boost their confidence.

“They’re trying to turn their season.”

Following Lightning’s visit, Nell’s troops travel to Basingstoke on Sunday.

Bison have dropped only one point at home this season. Being clinical in front of goal is therefore a priority for 30-year-old Nell.

“Basingstoke have had a strong start to the season. But, crucially, they’re very good at home,” said Nell.

“If we’re not at our best we won’t have much of a chance. We could’ve been better in front of goal.”