THE National Ice Hockey League campaign gets underway this weekend, with the Bespoke Guardians Swindon Wildcats facing Leeds Knights in a double-header across Saturday and Sunday.

Aaron Nell’s side will open their season up with a home game at the Link Centre (6:30pm face off) – an event which will see fans at full capacity for the first time in 18 months.

The Wildcats’ player-coach says everyone associated with the club is extremely excited to see normal service resumed, and the arrival of one of the title favourites will give Saturday night that extra-special feeling.

Nell said: “In pre-season, you are more focused on yourself and getting everything in order, but we know Leeds are a very good team with a lot of young and exiting players.

“I expect them to be one of the better teams in the league, so I’m sure it will be two great games this weekend.

“We’ve made a few changes to our team that I think were needed, and we’ve got some young players that are exceptional.

“It’s going to be great to be back at the Link with fans in the building again, it’s something we’ve been waiting for for 18 months. I know the players and the fans can’t wait for things to get going again.”

Swindon will be without new import signing Emil Svec for the first weekend of the season though due to a delay surrounding his visa.

While Nell is disappointed that this is the case, he believes the rest of his players will take their chance to kick off the season in the right way.

Reluctant to reveal his end target, Nell said winning every game they play is the primary goal during the early stages.

The Wildcats player-coach said: “As a coach, you want to win every game you play in. We know that’s not going to be the case, but we feel like we’ve put together a good team.

“The league is going to be very competitive, very close – I think top to bottom it will be the closest it’s ever been.

“There will be lots of ups and downs over the season, but we feel like we can have a good year this year. Hopefully, by the end of it we will have had a lot of success.”