THE BESPOKE Guardians Swindon Wildcats head coach Aaron Nell believes his team is “playing with the house’s money” and can perform without pressure in their Autumn Cup semi-final first leg against Telford Tigers on Thursday.

Swindon welcome the team above them in the National Ice Hockey League to the Link Centre knowing they are within two wins of lifting the first silverware of the season.

At the halfway stage of the Autumn Cup, Swindon were staring down the barrel of an early exit before winning three of their final four games to qualify by the skin of their teeth.

Nell suggested very few of a non-Swindon persuasion believe his side is favourites to lift the cup, but that underdog tag could work in the Wildcats’ favour as they tackle a powerful Telford side.

Nell said: “These are the kinds of situations where – in any sport – you want to play in.

“In this competition, we were written off halfway through the group stage and we really had no chance of going through.

“We’re kind of playing with the house’s money at the moment. We had a great end to the competition by getting seven of the last eight points to qualify.

“Everyone is excited and looking forward to it – we just want to get a good first leg out of the way.”

While Telford have recovered to become one of the form teams – much like the Wildcats – a bumpy beginning to the season highlighted similarities between Nell’s team and the Shropshire outfit.

Nell believes there are plenty more likenesses between his side and the Tigers – chiefly that they have been the two best teams over recent seasons and the games always provide thrills and spills.

Ahead of tonight’s 7:30pm puck-drop, Nell said: “It’s two very good teams. I think over the last two years, Telford have been the best team in our league, and I do believe over last two years we’ve been right up there with them.

“Our games against them are always very good. We had a semi-final against them last year where we went three goals up against them after the first leg and ended up losing.

“Anything can happen in the second leg, but we want to take a lead going up to Telford.

“We want to put in a good performance, and we’ll see where we are going into the second leg.”