“Has someone dropped it?” was the question that brought a scene of revelry to a shuddering, if not brief, halt.

You could barely move inside the Braehead Clan locker room. Glamorous wives and girlfriends of burly Canadians greeted their sweaty and semi-naked other halves, getting near enough to provide loving support but not too close to get a healthy waft of the unmistakable aroma of sweat and beer from their beloved.

Toddlers wearing oversized hockey tops scurried around their ankles, backroom staff at the Braehead Arena hovered suspiciously near a tray of smouldering hot pizzas minding their own business in the corner.

Somewhere in the middle of the scrum, Ryan Finnerty glanced over my shoulder to check on the well-being of the Gardiner Conference trophy, a piece of silverware claimed by his team for the third year in succession just moments before, given the metallic clang that echoed out somewhere on the other side of the wags. A frantic scamper from a clammy, bearded figure in skates through the throng, and the trophy was presented in one piece to someone not clutching a slice of pepperoni before the player – who will remain nameless - slooshed off into the distance for another beer.

Given how this beer and pizza and toddler party has become an annual event in recent seasons, it would be easy for those who fill the Braehead Arena on a weekly basis to take such success for granted. They have become used to being the best team in Scotland, even if that success over Dundee Stars, Edinburgh Capitals Fife Flyers and Manchester Storm has not been built upon – yet – in the form of an Elite League or play-off trophy. Yet, that couldn't be further from the case.

“My biggest thing is thinking back four years ago when I first walked in. I came from Sheffield and big clubs, and where we were then to now is incredible,” said Finnerty, the Braehead head coach.

“We haven’t won the league and sadly that is sometimes all you are judged on but the reality is we have grown a lot. Everyone has noticed it.

“I’m pretty proud when I think back to the first day I got here and you were having to install a lot of professionalism. We didn’t have a general manager, we’d lost a lot of staff, there was a turnover and the amount of commitment was huge.

“We’ve been backed by great ownership but we needed to prove that we could get bums on seats. I am more passionate about Braehead than some guy who sits on a bench for four years at an established club. You watch the team grow from really nothing to winning in the Champions League.

“It’s been a lot of fun, and any time you can win in front of your own fans is special. But there is more to come from us.”

It has been a mixed season for Braehead and one that leaves an uncertain finale ahead. Over the past two years, Clan’s management have invested heavily on the ice to build a team capable of satisfying the swelling attendance and their craving for a league title that grows more and more insatiable year on year.

They arguably came closest two seasons ago when they were pipped by just a point by Sheffield Steelers. It’s as close as they have come.

A horrendous start to the campaign this season pretty much killed off that ambition for another season this time around within a month or so of the campaign getting underway. Yet, the last month, and the Gardiner Conference that was sealed with a 4-1 win over Dundee on Saturday night, offers encouragement. A run of five home wins in a row has delivered a consistency which has been largely absent this season, and with a top-three seeding in the bag thanks to their latest piece of silverware, the tag of the dark horse could help Finnerty’s Clan spring a surprise.

“I think we are a dark horse," he said. "Our start didn’t do us any favours and for whatever reason it took this group some time to get it going the right way, but when we found it for a long time we have been the hottest team in the league here.

“We had the worst start imaginable but we’ve clawed our way back to some sort of respectability. Obviously our goal every year is to win every trophy and we realistically feel we can do that. In the last year we have been up there, a point away then five points away. This year it didn’t happen but to win this conference so convincingly is special."

With a month to go before the play-off quarter-finals - the four winners then advance to the finals weekend in Nottingham on April 8 and 9 - there is a danger a level of complacency could creep in given Clan's league position is now an irrelevance. For Finnerty, though, there is no let up.

“To win the conference with such a lead and this early is rewarding,” said the Canadian. “In my first year Dundee won the conference, but we’ve won it every year since. We should be proud of it, it’s a big trophy to be the best in Scotland.

“The guys understand it. We have some big rivalries, Fife especially, and anytime you can better them is a big thing. We are proud of it.

“It’s now time to kick on. It can be hard to start the car again when you take your foot off the gas, but I'm determined to make sure that won't happen."