The Newcastle Northstars cannot chase a third straight championship after their finals hopes were killed off by Melbourne Mustangs at Hunter Ice Skating Stadium on August 13.
The Northstars have won six Australian Ice Hockey League titles and are the back-to-back champions.
But they have won just 10 of their 25 outings and lost 6-1 to the Mustangs.
Northstars coach Andrew Petrie said it was “a really disappointing result” but was keen for his charges to finish their season on a high note with wins in their three remaining matches, all to be played on home ice.
“We’ve limped, dragged and felt like a walking zombie of a hockey club at times this season,” he said.
“This is going to sound cliché but I am prouder of these guys than the two teams that have won because, I don’t want to make comparisons, but they’ve never stopped trying.”
Newcastle last missed the finals in 2014.
They will host CBR Brave on August 19, Melbourne Ice on August 20 and Sydney Ice Dogs on August 26.