A TOUGH trip to Melbourne last weekend has put the Newcastle North Stars out of contention for a finals berth this Australian Ice Hockey League season.
Two losses against the Melbourne Mustangs, 6-3, and Melbourne Ice, 7-2, saw the North Stars lose any chance of making the play-offs to be held on August 30 and 31.
It will be the first time since 2003 that the North Stars do not make a finals appearance.
"It's tough to swallow," Newcastle coach Garry Dore said.
"We had two tough games in Melbourne against two leading teams this season and we had to win both.
"We gave it our all, but the games just did not go in our favour.
"This will be the first year we don't play in the play-offs but we'll be back next year."
Against the Melbourne Mustangs on Saturday the North Stars' Beau Taylor racked up the first goal of the night.
The second period leaned in the Mustangs' favour with the Melbourne side leading 2-1 heading into the final period.
Two goals from Newcastle's Brian Bales were not enough to overcome another four from Melbourne, who won the game and dashed the North Stars' hopes for finals.
Even out of contention, the North Stars went out against the Ice on Sunday determined to win.
The Ice's 1-0 lead in the first period soon extended to 3-1.
A goal-fest by the Melbourne side in the final period saw the game end 7-2.
Both Melbourne teams, the CBR Brave and last year's league champions the Sydney Ice Dogs will feature in the finals.
This Saturday the North Stars play their final game of the 2014 season at Hunter Ice Skating Stadium against Mustangs.