LOW on numbers they may be, but it was a case of mission accomplished for Hull Stingrays last night after they sealed a place in the Elite League play-offs.
A 1-0 defeat to Coventry Blaze following a shoot-out gave Omar Pacha’s team the point they required, making it impossible for rivals Edinburgh Capitals to pip them to a place in the post-season.
As expected, the Capitals went down on the road at title-chasing Cardiff Devils, losing out 6-3 in South Wales.
And while the two games played last night settled matters at one end of the regular season standings, Cardiff’s win sets up a mouth-watering weekend which will likely see the regular season championship go down to the wire and go any one of three ways.
The Devils are now level on points with leaders Sheffield Steelers, who remain top by virtue of having won more games in regulation.
Braehead Clan, who Hull visit on Saturday night before facing off at Coventry 24 hours later, remain tucked into third place a point behind the top two, who play each other on Saturday night.
On paper, Steelers face the toughest weekend of all the top three teams with them having to travel to arch-rivals Nottingham Panthers on Friday night 24 hours before hosting Cardiff in a live televised fixture on Premier Sports.
Nottingham could be the one team to have the most say in the title race as they travel to Cardiff on Sunday night.
As for a tired and relieved Pacha, he was understandably happy for his injury-riddled team to make the post-season with time to spare.
They must now hope they get some bodies back for a first round two-legged play-off tie against one of those top three teams.
After a goalless 65 minutes, the returning Jordan Mayer, along with Dominic Osman, Will Frederick and Jordan Knox stepped up in the shoot-out but were all denied by Blaze netminder Brian Stewart.
Former Stingrays forward Jereme Tendler, Derek Lee and Ben Arnt missed for Blaze, leaving Ryan O’Marra to clinch the extra point for Blaze.
“It was a team goal which was accomplished,” said a tired and relieved Pacha afterwards.
Hull, five points clear of Edinburgh, could still finish in sixth spot overall if they win both their games at the weekend and other results go their way. Coventry are currently in sixth but face a tricky night at Belfast Giants on Friday before hosting Hull two days later.
Fife, above Hull only on games won in regulation, host Belfast on Saturday before Braehead visit the following night.
“It has been tough this year with all the injuries and things we have had to deal with so it is a good accomplishment for the club,” he added. “Everybody should be proud of themselves.
“That is only one goal obtained and now we should aim for bigger and better things and a first-round win would be nice.
“We have two games left and, hopefully, we can get enough points to move above Fife in seventh and you never know sixth spot might still be available.”