SWINDON Wildcats head coach Aaron Nell believes sparkling performances in their final two regular-season fixtures can help his side spring a surprise or two once the NIHL play-offs get underway in a week’s time.

Following a rollercoaster clash against local rivals, Bristol Pitbulls last Saturday – which ended in an 8-5 victory for the Wildcats – Swindon welcome the Raiders to the Link Centre on Saturday night before closing their campaign away at the Bees 24 hours later.

Although league positions are set for the Cats and Raiders, Nell knows both teams will want to set up their play-off campaigns with four-point weekends for added confidence.

He said: “Everything we’re thinking about now is about what will help us going into the play-offs.

“I truly believe that the better you play in the last weekend of regular-season games, the more chance you have of playing well in the play-offs.

“With the play-offs only being a two-week competition, it’s about getting ready for it and getting the last few things we need to hopefully have a good play-off run.”

Swindon’s preparation for the final round of fixtures featured announcing a new one-year deal for Balint Pakozdi.

The Okanagan Hockey Academy product has bagged 124 points in 123 games for the Wildcats since making the move up, and says he is delighted to be returning for the 2023-24 campaign.

Pakozdi said: “I’m absolutely delighted to be back in Swindon for another year!

“I think we’ve got better this year as the season has gone on and we have the potential to be a great team having a great season next year.

“I’m looking to score more goals, win more games and get some trophies! I’ve been lucky enough to play with Aaron [Nell] and Tomasz Malasinski, and I don’t think it can get much better than playing alongside those guys, so I’m enjoying every second of it.”

Meanwhile, Nell said: “I’m delighted to have secured Bali’s signature for another year.

“The way he plays the game is different to the rest of our top six, and he’s been a very consistent player for us this year.

“He’s a very hard-working individual and a passionate hockey player. He makes big plays and gets under the skin of our opponents.

“I’m excited to work with him for another season and, considering he’s only 23, the best years of Bali are still ahead of him.”