Arena forwards must learn to scale ‘K-Wall’

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The statistics don’t make pretty reading.

In three hours of ice time against Nottingham Panthers, Sheffield Steelers have scored just two goals.

In the last two of those three games, they haven’t scored at all.

Panthers’ one-time NHL draft goaltender Craig Kowalski has had to make 77 saves in those three matches, but in fairness, the amount of truly excellent stops he was forced into could be counted on one hand.

So how are Steelers going to beat him on Sunday, when the teams collide for the first time at Sheffield Arena, in this season’s Elite League?

Jason Hewitt gives credit to the 30-year-old American where it is due, but believes the home forward line can click on Sunday and overcome “K-Wall.”

“We have got big boys, skilled guys a bit of everything” he says of his forward line team-mates. “We can succeed. I don’t want to use Kowalski as an excuse but he has definitely played well against us. He has upped his game. But the fact is that if we find a way to beat him and we’ll find a way to beat Nottingham.”

Hewitt, himself, is a workhorse rather than a natural goalscorer.

But he is a more than a little frustrated that he has not hit the net more than once in the last 15 Sheffield games.

“I feel like I am playing well and working hard, but maybe not getting the bounces. I have got to work through it, on the goal front. I am not a true goal scorer but I like to chip in and help, picking up points here and there but I have to be better in front of goal and help the guys out.”

Hewitt is an admirer of six-game team-mate RG Flath, who was brought in to cover for injured Mike Ramsay and has scored three so far. “He is staking a claim (for a full contract) big time. He is going to give Finner (coach Ryan Finnerty) a decision to make when the injured guys are back. He goes about his business, he is not always flashy, but he gets it done, good on him.”

Steelers are hoping Sunday’s game will top 7,000 in attendance. The last time that happenened was another Panthers’ game, in March last year, when Ron Shudra’s shirt was formally retired - a game which attracted 8,634 and ended with a 6-2 scoreline; Sheffield would dearly love to see replicated this weekend.