“SO FAR against Sheffield, we’ve been pretty good at home. But I want us to be really good this weekend.”

Swindon Wildcats’ head coach Aaron Nell is hoping to lead his team to a fourth-place finish in the National Ice Hockey League this season but knows if they are to achieve it, a win over Sheffield Steeldogs at the Link Centre on Saturday is almost a necessity.

From trailing the Steeldogs by double-digit points earlier in the season, a thumping 5-1 victory in Yorkshire last Sunday has closed the gap to just four ahead of the final regular-season meeting this weekend.

The previous two both ended 7-6, with a penalty shoot-out win apiece. Nell is hoping for a much more straightforward success on Saturday.

He said: “I don’t think there is pressure on us either way. I wouldn’t say it’s a defining week, but it will probably steer where we’ll end up – whether it’s fourth or fifth.

“If we lose on Saturday, it’ll be really tough to get that fourth spot. It’s a good test for us.

“We want to play a good game at home against them. We’ve played two pretty good games against them, but we haven’t been really good.

“We do want to chase them down, so hopefully we can get even closer to them this weekend.”

Swindon enter clashes with Telford Tigers and the Steeldogs this weekend having won 10 of their past 12 matches – only second place Milton Keynes Lightning have a better record over that time.

The Wildcats’ only two defeats in that period came against Leeds Knights, who are first, and the only side who sit above them in the form table, the Lightning.

Nell hopes the significant upturn in form has come at the right time in a particularly strong year for second-tier hockey.

He said: “We’ve had a difficult season. It obviously wasn’t ideal to start the way we did, but I’m pretty sure that if we were lucky enough to win our next three games we would have more points after 48 games than we did last season when we finished second.

“The league is a lot tougher this year, and the top three teams have been very good.

“If you look at Peterborough for example, they’re third, but if they had this many points last season they would have won the league by five or six points.

“We didn’t have a very good start, but we’ve really turned it around. Hopefully, we are peaking at the right time.”