TWO games in the next five days will go a long way towards shaping Newcastle Vipers’ season, but their chances have been hampered by a transfer embargo.
Last week the Elite League gave the Vipers permission to complete the season after concerns over their finances. But at the same time they have been stopped from adding to a threadbare squad which contains just seven imports.
With the transfer deadline a week on Monday, the league stopped an import signing Vipers had lined up last week.
The regular season still has eight weeks left, but winger Mike Prpich says the play-offs start at Hillheads tonight.
Dundee Stars are the visitors in the chase for the final top-eight spot. Even at this stage, seven play-off places look secure. The final one will go to Newcastle or Dundee, for whom tonight’s clash is the first of five in the run-in.
“They’re always big games at this period of the season, and with the teams so close to each other in the standings, they turn into play-off games,” said Prpich.
“We’re not in a bad position, three points behind (Dundee) with a game in hand. We’re starting to play well as a team and we’re learning how to play short-benched and in a tight arena.
“We know they will come hard at us because they don’t want teams catching them. One team wants to pull away, the other wants to catch them up.”
The Vipers have a Challenge Cup semi-final first leg against Nottingham Panthers on Wednesday – after tomorrow’s league trip to Belfast Giants.
The Vipers have defied the odds to pull off some incredible one-off victories this season, but they have also taken some big beatings, like Wednesday’s 9-0 defeat to Sheffield Steelers.
“You take the good and the bad and learn from it,” said Prpich.
“We might have been a little tired and it caused us to make more mistakes than normal. We didn’t have as much jump as usual. You don’t want to use it as an excuse but sometimes stuff like that happens.
“We could definitely use an import or two.”
Holders Whitley Warriors can win the English National League North One title with victory at home to Telford tomorrow. It will put them out of reach of Nottingham Lions with six games left.
Northern Stars are at bottom-of-the-table Trafford tonight.