While it may be difficult to pull too many positives from a season of misery on the ice, to even have a team to support at the start of next season will be success in itself for Deeside Dragons .
In the Moralee Conference, the second tier of British ice hockey following the collapse of the Premier League in 2017, the Dragons sit bottom having lost 31 of their 33 games, winning just twice.
Deeside host Whitley Warriors in their final home game of the season at the Deeside Ice Rink on Saturday night (5.45pm) looking to end on a rare high note.
The Dragons were promoted to the Moralee Conference after winning the Laidler Conference back in 2016 and made a successful fist of it during their maiden campaign last season to stay up.
But after the dissolution of the Premier League at the end of last season, and a number of top teams coming into the Moralee Conference, including Hull Pirates and Sheffield Steeldogs, it created an uneven playing field for a side with limited resources such as Deeside.
Add to that the loss of player/head coach Scott McKenzie to league rivals Telford Tigers, another former Premier League side, and the departure of numerous other key players, the task was a near impossible one for the club.
But the biggest challenge of all was to ensure that Flintshire still had a semi-professional ice hockey side, something which looks to have been achieved.
“Just before Christmas we came very close to not having a team at all and we could very well have folded,” said general manager Nigel Ryland.
“But we have had sponsors come on board that we weren’t expecting and we have been able to stay afloat and we can at least look forward to next season knowing that we will have a team to support.
“We lost our head coach and five or six of our best players but I am indebted to those players who stayed with us and decided to carry on fighting.
“We had 18 players, many of whom I have known and been a part of this club with for 20 years or so, who stayed and helped us.
“We could have walked away and that could have been it but I didn’t want that to happen on my watch and we have battled and we will have a team to support for the future.”
Next season could see a shake up to the National Ice Hockey League structure.
Talks are ongoing about the possibility of splitting the Moralee and Laidler Conference divisions into three leagues.
But wherever the Dragons find themselves, Ryland can’t wait to close the book on what has been one of the most testing campaigns since the club was founded.
“To be honest, I am ecstatic that this season is going to end,” admitted Ryland, who watched Deeside go down 17-1 at home to high-flying Telford last weekend.
“It has been so difficult but full credit to the players for getting back out there week after week and making sure that we kept on going.
“We have been competitive against some of the traditional Moralee Conference sides, and the 6-3 loss to Solway Sharks the other week, a team who won the league last season, was up there with our best performance of the season.
“But the Premier League teams like Sheffield, Hull and Telford have all been on a different level, and a level that we just can’t compete with.
“It will be good to regroup at the end of the season and go at it next year in a league where we can be competitive week in week out.”
Ryland is hopeful of a full house for the visit of old foes Whitley on Saturday (March 10), keen to see the Dragons put on a battling display to round off the season.
“It would be great if we could get a full house this weekend and just be able to end the season well and say thanks to the fans,” he said.
“We are hoping we can do a skate with the fans at the end of the game, kind of a meet and greet, just as a way of saying ‘thank you’.
“We’re hoping for a good turnout as the interest in ice skating and the amount of people coming through the doors at the leisure centre in recent weeks has been through the roof because ‘Dancing on Ice’ has been on the television.
“The rink has sold out of skates before now and there is real interest in it, as well as having the Winter Olympics on recently.
“That could mean good news for us in terms of getting more people in and more people interested in ice hockey and the Dragons.
“It has been a long, hard season but we have managed to get through it and we will live to fight another day.”