THE Deeside Dragons welcome a highflying Altrincham side to the Den on Sunday as they look to keep their faint hopes of reaching the play-offs alive.

Following last weeks 5-4 defeat to Widnes, the sixth placed Dragons are now six points off the Sheffield side who currently occupy the final play-off place, having played a game more.

Widnes – who are a point behind the Senators in fifth place – can also extend that difference by winning either of the two games in hand that they have on Sheffield.

Altrincham, meanwhile, have been in scintillating form of late, winning nine of their last 11 matches to push them up to third in the NIHL Laidler Conference and to within two points of the top two sides – Hull Jets and Bradford Bulldogs.

The Aces also recorded their biggest win of the season so far last time out as they ruthlessly demolished a fourth placed Sheffield side 15-3 at their own rink.

But Dragons player-coach Marc Lovell insists that while results haven’t quite gone his team’s way, performances have improved markedly.

Ahead of their weekend clash, Lovell said: “Altrincham are on a roll and playing with real confidence at the moment, so it will be a tough game.

“But we beat them in their own rink earlier in the season, and we’ve been playing some good hockey of our own recently that gives us our own confidence.

“Our performances of late against Bradford, Telford and Widnes have been much better, so hopefully we have enough to get a win in front of our own fans.”

The Flintshire club will once again be without Alex Parry who continues to serve a six game ban for the match penalty he received in January’s 7-2 defeat to Widnes.

With Hull and Bradford both out of action this weekend, the Aces could move to the top of the Laidler Conference with any kind of victory or overtime defeat in Deeside, providing they pick up two points against bottom of the table Blackburn Hawks Two on Saturday.

A double win for Altrincham would also mean the Dragons will not be able to catch up with the Aces, even if they were to win each of their remaining league fixtures.

Sheffield Senators and Widnes Wild can also edge themselves closer to that point if they manage home wins over the division’s bottom two sides – Blackburn Hawks Two and Telford Tigers.