With just one set of fixtures to play ahead of Christmas the Scottish National League (SNL) is perfectly set-up for an exciting second half to the season.
Dundee Comets currently lead the standings on goal difference from Paisley Pirates who host North Ayrshire Wild on Saturday.
Murrayfield Racers are third, four points off top spot but with three games in hand on the leaders. The Racers face Solway Stingrays on Sunday and they will fancy their chances of narrowing the gap.
Fourth-placed Aberdeen Lynx are a point behind Murrayfield, with Kirkcaldy Kestrels a further point adrift in fifth. The two sides meet at Fife Ice Arena on Sunday in a game that could be crucial to their respective title hopes.
Realistically the winner of this season’s title is likely to come from one of those five sides, but it is difficult to make a firm prediction which way it will go at this stage.
The Comets have been impressive for most of the season as they bid to retain their title, although a heavy defeat at Murrayfield showed that they might not have things their own way this time around.
Paisley have lost just once this season against the Comets, but they have remained unbeaten since then. Their signing of forward Daniel Abercrombie, who started the campaign with Murrayfield, could prove to be an inspired move.
Murrayfield are yet to be beaten in the league this term and their recent victories over the Comets and Kirkcaldy highlighted the talent they have at their disposal.
The Racers face all of their title rivals during the early part of 2019 and if they can safely navigate that run of games they could emerge as the main threat to the Comets’ hopes of retaining their crown.
Sixth-placed North Ayrshire will be eager to build some momentum over the coming weeks, particularly as they have the final of the Stuart Robertson Cup to look forward to.
Wild will face either Murrayfield or the Comets in the two-legged final after finishing ahead of Paisley during the group stage.
The Stingrays, Dundee Tigers and Kilmarnock Thunder complete the league standings and all three teams will hope to keep developing as the season progresses. The latter two sides meet in Dundee on Saturday.
In the Scottish Cup, Murrayfield and Kirkcaldy have already booked their places in the first semi-final. Aberdeen lead Kilmarnock 7-6 after the first leg of their quarter-final tie, with the winners going on to play either the Comets or Paisley who are yet to meet.
The Comets clinched the treble last season and they will be striving to pick up more silverware in 2019. However, they will undoubtedly face some stiff competition from their rivals over the next months.
(Image permission: Al Goold Photo)