IT HAS been a frustrating campaign for the Swindon Wildcats so far, writes George Royle.
On occasions, they have looked like the best team in the league but have also shown their vulnerability.
Heading into week nine of the season, the Wildcats currently occupy seventh place in the table with 19 points.
However, there are plenty of positives for coach Ryan Aldridge to take as his team look to push up the league. Jonas Hoog, the Swedish forward, sits top of the league's points scoring list with an impressive 34 in just 19 games. Captain Aaron Nell is also starting to score freely, recording 31.
These two have yet again formed a destructive partnership, just as they did in the second half of last season.
After a slow start to the campaign, goaltender Dean Skinns is now playing his best hockey week in and week out. He has faced more shots than any other goalie in the league, yet still has a decent save percentage of .900.
Many Swindon fans feel their team has underachieved this season, but I think it is a bit harsh to say that. Rarely has the team gone into a game with everyone fully fit. The Wildcats' fight and desire has been admirable, digging deep to secure crucial points when key players have been missing through injury.
A perfect example of that attitude came on Sunday night when Swindon travelled to Manchester to take on a very good Phoenix team. With Manchester leading 4-0, the game seemed done and dusted, but the Cats pulled it back to 4-4 and cruelly lost 5-4 in overtime.
Having been beaten in similar circumstances – 4-3 at home to Peterborough Phantoms – the previous night, the Wiltshire side have now lost all nine of the games that have gone into overtime. If they had won those nine, they would be third in the table. Such are the margins separating the Cats from the elite teams in the league.
The heroic performance against the Phoenix on Sunday will hopefully be the catalyst for a turnaround in their fortunes.
The Cats look to gain revenge on Manchester when they take them on at the Link Centre on Saturday.