Why Belfast Giants are set to play more Elite League games next season
The Belfast Giants will face their main title rivals just six times in the battle for next season's Elite League crown, but will have a higher total number of matches in the season.
After the Edinburgh Capitals quit the league at the end of last season, and with no other team ready to step in, the decision has been made to run with the remaining 11 teams and a 60-game league season.
For the last few seasons teams have faced opposition from their own four-team conference eight times and the remaining teams four times, but the restructure means an increase from the previous 56-game programme.
The conference system, where the Giants were placed alongside the Cardiff Devils, Nottingham Panthers and Sheffield Steelers, will remain.
"Having to meet to decide the way forward was not one we particularly relished after the circumstances involving Edinburgh," said Elite League chairman Tony Smith.
"While we are sad to lose them, it means we have to move on and it's by no means been an easy day for us in plotting the next step.
"As a league, we examined the options available to us in great depth and the most logical one to take was to go with 11 teams for the 2018-19 season.
"On behalf of the Elite League, I want to take this opportunity to thank Edinburgh Capitals for their contribution during their 13 years competing in this league and wish Scott Neil and everyone connected all the best for the future.
"It's the next exciting step in our league and I'm looking forward to getting ready for the new campaign."
The format of the Challenge Cup, which the Giants will aim to defend next season, will be announced in late June after the league's fixtures meeting.
Meanwhile, Great Britain have learned that they will face global ice hockey powerhouses, and bitter rivals, Canada and the USA in next year's World Championships following their promotion to the elite group of nations.
GB's success in Division 1A of the World Championships in Hungary last month will also see them come up against the cream of Europe in the shape of Olympic silver medallists Germany, as well as Finland, Denmark, France and host nation Slovakia when they return to the top level for the first time in 25 years.
Canada and the USA were both losing semi-finalists in the recent World Championships, which were won by Sweden, with the Americans winning the bronze medal game 4-1.
All seven of GB's games in the eight-team group will take place in the city of Kosice and provided they can avoid finishing bottom of the group they will remain in the top bracket.