THE Newcastle North Stars sent their message loud and clear at their final home game of the 2013 season last Saturday against the Melbourne Mustangs.
They are already playing finals hockey.
"We wanted everyone to know that [Saturday's game] was the first game in the play-offs for us," North Stars coach Garry Doré said.
After denying the Mustangs a finals berth last Saturday at the Hunter Ice Skating Stadium, defeating the visiting side 6-1, the North Stars now have their eyes cast to Melbourne.
This weekend Newcastle will face both Victorian sides in a double header.
The following weekend it will be back to Melbourne for the Australian Ice Hockey League finals.
All four finals spots were decided last weekend.
Joining the North Stars and Sydney Ice Dogs in Melbourne in September will be the 2010 to 2012 AIHL champions the Melbourne Ice and for the first time, the Perth Thunder.
However, Doré said it did not matter who they met in the finals, what mattered was how the team performed come game day.
"It doesn't matter what team we play," Doré said.
"It's not going to be an easy road [to win].
"Each team is there for the same reason; they have the same desire to win."
He said the North Stars' focus was to continue sharpening players' systems and focusing on its strengths. A particular strength this year is the high level of talent.
"We have a team with so much depth this year, which has never been seen before in the North Stars history," Doré said.