Pegasus need just four points from three matches to win the EYHL regulation season and qualify automatically for European hockey next year.
A scoreless draw between Loreto and UCD on Thursday night did the Belfast side a huge favour and has left them in a strong position to take the honours.
Pegasus face Cork Harlequins at the Dub on Saturday in what will be a dress rehearsal for their Irish Senior Cup semi-final encounter eight days later. Michelle Harvey’s team opened up a seven point gap at the top of the table after a comprehensive 5-0 win over Belfast Harlequins at the Dub on Wednesday night.
Quins were well below par after a battling draw with Loreto at the weekend and Pegasus never looked back after Shirley McCay slammed home the first penalty corner of the game after less than 60 seconds.
It was one-way traffic after that as Quins failed to get a shot on target in the entire 70 minutes as Pegasus added further goals through schoolgirl Charlotte Hart, Lucy McKee, Kate Gourley and McCay again.
On Saturday Harlequins travel to Ards, who have been buoyed by last week’s 2-1 win at Pembroke, which has moved them four points off the bottom.
Quins will be aiming to avenge a 3-2 Irish Senior Cup defeat in the corresponding fixture before Christmas but will have to keep a close eye on Ards’ striker Harriet Platt, who scored both goals in the weekend win in Dublin.
After playing Pegasus, Cork will be staying in Belfast overnight on Saturday as they must travel to Londonderry Park to face Ards on Sunday.
In IHL 2, Queen’s will be hoping to overcome Greenfields in Galway in a bid to top their group and set up a potentially less difficult semi-final, with promotion to the top flight the reward for the overall winners of the play-off series.
The students drew 2-2 with champions Lurgan midweek in a crucial Ulster Premier League encounter, a late equaliser from Katy Aston clinching the point while Leanne Cassells’ goal sealed Dungannon a 1-0 victory at Ballymena, who stay bottom.
On Saturday, Ballymoney will be hoping to bounce back from a surprise loss to Rainey when they host Randalstown.
There is also a vital game at the other end of the table as basement side Ballymena take on Mossley, who are third from bottom, with Lisnagarvey facing Rainey in the other top flight match.
In the men’s EYHL, Lisnagarvey will be expected to stay top with an away win over Cork C of I, having beaten them 8-2 a week ago.
In the other reverse fixtures, challengers Banbridge and Glenanne clash head-on, having drawn 3-3 last week while Annadale entertain Three Rock bidding to avenge a 6-3 loss in Dublin. Cookstown take on Pembroke Wanderers at Serpentine Avenue and with just five rounds of matches remaining in this season’s competition, the Reds insist it’s time to get some more points on the board.
The Tyrone side are second bottom and in the relegation play-off spot, three points ahead of Cork and two behind YMCA.
“It has been both heartening and tough over the last three games,” said Cookstown captain Greg Allen. “We probably should’ve got more than draws out of the Monkstown and Annadale matches at home, and I thought we played well enough to get a point at Glenanne. But that’s just how it goes.
“We’ve certainly been playing some lovely stuff and that has been without Stuarty Smyth’s firepower. Where we’ve been really good has been around the back with Dan Crooks, Paul Thompson, Jack Haycock and Matty Rollins in outstanding form. That base has allowed the lads in front a bit of freedom and it has paid dividends.”
“It will be a tough match – it always is at Pembroke. They are going for the playoffs and have proven again and again that they are one of the most resilient teams in the league. They are not easy to break down and always seem to get one more goal than those they play against.
“If we can bring the game that we’ve shown recently, it promises to be a highly competitive match.”
In the Ulster Premier, there’s a likely title decider between champions Kilkeel and Instonians at Shaw’s Bridge where a win for either team would almost certainly guarantee them the trophy with one further game left for both contenders.
EYHL: Pegasus 5 (S McCay 2, L McKee, K Gourley, C Hart) Belfast Harlequins 0
Ulster Premier: Ballymena 0 Dungannon 1 (L Cassells); Lurgan 2 (J Reid, P Best) Queen’s 2 (E McStea, K Aston)
Senior One: Portadown 1 (L Craig) North Down 1 (S Lewis).
EYHL: Cork C of I v Lisnagarvey (1pm); Banbridge v Glenanne (2.45pm); Annadale v Three Rock Rovers (2.30pm); Pembroke v Cookstown (2pm); YMCA v Monkstown (3.15pm)
Ulster Premier: Instonians v Kilkeel (4pm); South Antrim v Mossley (2.45pm)
Sussex Regiment Cup: Newry v Queen’s (2.30pm); Belfast Harlequins v North Down (1pm).
Intermediate Cup: PSNI v Portrush (2.30pm); Saintfield v Armagh (2.30pm).
EYHL: Ards v Belfast Harlequins (2.30pm); Pegasus v Cork Harlequins (1pm); Pembroke v UCD (12noon); Loreto v Old Alex (1pm); Railway Union v Muckross (2.30pm)
IHL 2 Pool 1: Greenfields v Queen’s (2.20pm)
IHL 2 Pool 2: Dungannon v NUIG (1pm); Monkstown v Lurgan (1pm)
Ulster Premier: Ballymoney v Randalstown (2.30pm); Lisnagarvey v Rainey (2.30pm); Mossley v Ballymena (4pm)
Senior One: Castle v North Down; CI v Raphoe (4pm); Priorians v Omagh (2.30pm).
EYHL: Ards v Cork Harlequins (1pm)