Geoff braces himself for an old pals’ visit

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A BATTLE OF goaltenders will decided tomorrow’s clash between Sheffield Steelers and Nottingham Panthers.

Sheffield will ice second stringer Geoff Woolhouse, with Ervins Mustukovs on international duties in Latvia. Woolhouse conceded five goals from 30 shots in the 7-5 midweek win at Hull Stingrays, but made some decent saves too. The 26-year-old is keen to win against his old club.

At the other end of the ice will be Craig Kowalski. He’s nicknamed ‘K-Wall,’ but had a few bricks missing, a week ago, at Sheffield Arena.

Then, he was hooked after 48 minutes; immediately after Ashley Tait rattled in a fourth Steeler goal in the 6-1 rout.

Rod Sarich suspects that horror show won’t be repeated tomorrow - and the American saved 31 shots in Tuesday’s 3-1 Panthers’ win over Coventry Blaze.

Team-mate Neil Clark also believes Panthers will be a different proposition than the side that lost so heavily. “After that they will be ready to go, it will be tougher” he said.

Sheffield’s midweek win moved them five points clear of Cardiff Devils at the top of the standings. But Devils play at Braehead Clan tonight.

n Steelers owner Paul Ragan believes the ‘wealthier’ clubs should no longer bail out struggling teams with cash pay-offs.

Edinburgh Capitals and Newcastle Vipers have been propped up by occasional payments over the years - possibly up to £200,000 - a massive amount in a minority sport. Both clubs could head towards the English Premier League, unless their fortunes improve.

If they do drop out, they will join Manchester Phoenix, who it is thought, received around £80,000 from the Elite League in 2008-9 season.

Ragan said: “Any payments of this kind was before my time. I’m an advocate of providing support to small clubs but not in cash, rather in providing (event) production or marketing people to move their business forward. Hockey has made mistakes in the past, we must learn from them.”