Sheffield Steeldogs play their first home game of the season on Sunday with the Blackburn Hawks the visitors at iceSheffield (5:30 face-off).
There has been a lot of change at the Steeldogs since the end of last season.
With Guildford and MK having moved from the EPL to join the Steelers in the Elite League, the plan was for the second tier to transform in to the Premier Ice Hockey League (PIHL).
However the hope that other teams would want to join the new league proved wrong and the EIHA intervened, recommending that the PIHL teams join the National ice Hockey League (NIHL).
The NIHL had been the third level of hockey in England, divided between South and North.
The Steeldogs applied and were accepted into NIHL North 1 aka the Moralee Conference, with old rivals Hull and Telford and the likes of Whitley Bay, Deeside and Billingham.
The NIHL agreed to allow the use of a maximum of two imports, a drop from what had been the norm in the EPL.
Player/Coach Greg Wood made the decision to retire from hockey, leaving a space quickly filled by Ben Morgan. Morgan had been the Steeldogs captain for the past two years and has played at every level of the British game including a season with the Steelers and more than 500 games for the Scimitars and Dogs.
Morgan retained the services of the speedy Slovakian forward Adrian Palak and added his countryman Milan Kolena (who won the EPL with Telford last year) to fill the import slots.
The squad has a very familiar look with a core of last year’s team complemented by returning talent such as Lloyd Gibson, Andy Hirst and after five years away, net minder Dmitri Zimozdra.
After a strong road weekend to open the season, with 3 points taken from games in Telford and Solihull, Sunday brings Blackburn to iceSheffield, led by ex-Steeldog Steve Duncombe.
He has assembled a team who are strong in defence and this week picked up Steelers apprentice Kieran Brown to add depth to their forward line.
Results have already shown that this will be a competitive league where anyone can beat anyone so the Steeldogs will be determined to make a winning start at home in what promises to be an exciting encounter.