Swindon Wildcats player-coach Aaron Nell says his players have been champing at the bit to return to action.
The seven-week NIHL Spring Cup begins this weekend, with Wildcats keen to start off in the best possible way when they take on Sheffield Steeldogs in a double header.
And Nell doesn’t believe he and his team will be facing a Steeldogs team any different to the one they played in November’s Streaming Series.
“We all can’t wait,” he said. “It’s been a long 10-11 months, apart from the nice couple of weeks we had back in November, but we’re relieved to be back and can’t wait to start.
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Keep this Saturday free in your calendars as the boys take on the @SteeldogsIHC in our first Spring Cup game 🏆
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— Swindon Wildcats (@SwinWildcats) February 8, 2021
“Since the Streaming Series ended, we just didn’t know what was going to be happening next in terms of playing again.
“It was tough, trying to stay positive and talking to the players, they kept asking what was going on. We couldn’t really tell them anything as we didn’t know.
“We’re up first against Sheffield Steeldogs and it’ll be two very good games. I don’t think Steeldogs will be any different to the team we faced back in November, despite the change in coach. They’ve added some really good players to their lineup, which makes them even better.
“We’ve got to make sure we’re aware of their better players, be alert in the neutral zone and do that, we’ve always got a chance against any team we play in our league.
“It’s a longer competition this time and Sheffield will be favourites going in, so it’s important we try and get the win from them early.”
With the Elite League unable to play, Nell is delighted to be able to have some top flight experience to call upon again, such as GB stars Ben Davies, Josh Batch and Matthew Myers.
He admits for these players, preparation for the World Championships may not be ideal, but is happy to benefit from their presence on the ice.
“It’s not ideal, but this is the situation and you’ll find a lot of leagues across the world in a similar situation, with shorter camps and that kind of thing,” he added.
“It’s unfortunate for the Elite League they didn’t get to play. We wanted them to play, but to have the EIHL players is good for us.
“We’ve got three separate dressing rooms so they aren’t around each other, which makes it hard to get the most from the off ice staff.
“On the ice, they’ll be great for us from a performance point of view and for the younger players, they’ll learn from them as well and pick up little things, giving them the best situation for them to go the GB camp.
“It’s what it is and I know they want to make the best of it.”