SHEFFIELD Steelers are taking a gamble by allowing their record-breaking goaltender Ervins Mustukovs to miss tonight’s game and Saturday’s clash with Nottingham Panthers.
Latvian-born Mustukovs has been called up to represent his country this week in the Euro Challenge tournament in Norway.
The 26-year-old will miss this evening’s game against Hull Stingrays and the visit of Panthers to Sheffield Arena. While it is a huge honour for the netminder who set an Elite League record with 10 shut outs in his first season with the club - the opportunity comes just as Steelers have fought their way to top position in the division.
Coach Ben Simon commented: “I was approached by the Latvian Ice Hockey Federation requesting Ervins’ release. This is a chance for him to showcase his talents to a lot of other teams in the world.
“Selfishly, I didn’t want him to miss any games, but this is a great opportunity for him.
“After speaking with ‘Moose’ about it, I understood his pride and desire to represent his country. It is a very rare opportunity for anyone to be able to play for their country. It is an honour, and one that Ervins has undoubtedly earned. After putting myself in his shoes, it was an easy decision. I hope that the fans understand this,” said Simon.
“I am also very confident making this decision knowing that Geoff Woolhouse will be stepping up to backstop us.
“After an injury in our first practice of the year, he has worked extremely hard to return to the line-up. He has been terrific all year long and an absolute professional in every sense of the word.
“I am looking forward to Geoff getting his chance and every one on this team is confident that he will do a great job. One of the reasons we have had success this year is the fact that we have had different guys step up at different times of the year.
“Geoff is more than capable of stepping up, and we will be ready to continue through this key stretch of the season.”