While the Elite League draws the bulk of the attention in the British game, there’s a league lower down the scale gearing up to provide its own thrilling finish.
NIHL North Moralee D1 has improved rapidly over the past few years and the 2016/17 season has continued that upward trend.
Solway Sharks have deservedly claimed the title, with Billingham Stars securing the runners-up spot.
Current third-placed team Solihull Barons are in pole-position to join that pair in the play-offs, with either Whitley Warriors or Blackburn Hawks the most likely to also qualify for the end-of season showdown.
The Warriors face away games against Telford Tigers NIHL and Billingham, while Blackburn play Solihull home and away in addition to a final day encounter at home to Deeside Dragons.
The Lancashire outfit beat both the Stars and Sharks over the weekend and with two of their remaining three games one home ice they are favourites to secure their place at iceSheffield.
Sutton Sting are currently sixth in the table, two points ahead of Telford and a further point in front of Deeside who have a game in hand on the other pair.
Three wins from their last five games has given Telford a fighting chance of escaping relegation and with Sutton meeting Billingham in their final game the Tigers could sneak out of the bottom two.
Deeside’s final games are against Solway and Blackburn, and while they’ve been a welcome addition to D1N after being promoted last year they face a big task to avoid the drop.
The team finishing next to bottom in the table will face a promotion/relegation play-off against Widnes Wild, although Sutton, Telford or Deeside should all prove too strong for the D2 club.
(Image permission: Keith & Jenny Davies)