Nottingham Panthers are ready for arguably the biggest game in their 71-year history as they take on one of the true giants of European ice hockey tomorrow.
Panthers will face Zurich Lions in the last 16 of the Champions Hockey League after being the shock winners of Group F.
They were the rank outsiders at the start of the tournament, seeded last of the 32 teams in the premier continent-wide competition.
Corey Neilson’s team might well have been satisfied if they had won one game, but they won four to put the Elite League further on the map.
Now they meet a Zurich team with 1,643 combined appearances in the NHL to their name among the current roster.
The figure for Panthers is 32. Their wage bill is dwarfed by the Swiss side, who have experienced stars such as Lauri Korpikoski in their ranks.
The Finn has played more than 600 times in the NHL and is an Olympic bronze medallist.
Ahead of the first leg, Zurich are missing key men such as captain Patrick Geering, but they remain the overwhelming favourites to progress with the second leg taking place on November 7.
Panthers forward Robert Farmer knows his team are up against it, but he says Panthers will approach the game in the same way as they have every match in the tournament.
“We’re underdogs, but we view it in the same way as the other six games in the competition,” he said.
“We’re coming off a really tough week in the league. We’re desperate to do well in that.
“It’s our bread and butter. The coaches will get us ready for what’s coming in Zurich, but the approach is exactly the same.
“We know we’re in a tough game, a real battle, but we’ll see where we end up.
“We’re confident that we can do well. We’ve upset the odds so far.
“We feel like we more than deserved to do that so we are ready for Zurich. We want to advance and hopefully we can do that.”
Head coach Corey Neilson says the pressure is off his team – a rarity considering their status as one of the teams to beat in the Elite League.
He hopes Panthers’ experience of two-legged ties in the Challenge Cup will stand them in good stead.
“There’s no pressure on us. We set out to do our best and show that the Elite League has come a long way,” he told the club.
“We’ve already done that. At this stage the CHL is an aggregate score affair and we’re used to that in our play-offs and our Challenge Cup later stages, so we know what we’ve got to try to do in the first leg in Switzerland.
“Our fans have been great so far, both at home and on the road in Europe. We’re going to do our best for them, for our organisation, for the city of Nottingham and for the Elite League. We’ve broken so many records on this European journey so far we might as well go all out for another!”
Panthers are set to be at full strength in Switzerland.