SHEFFIELD Steelers came out fighting today - determined to counter criticism of their goalie John DeCaro.
The American netminder had a mixed weekend as the Elite League opened for business.
He was arguably at fault for a couple of goals in a home defeat at the hands of Cardiff Devils. But in the return leg in Wales, he was Sheffield’s stand-out performer and largely credited for the win.
DeCaro has his critics in the stands - some of whom were displeased because the 29-year-old signed for a Scandinavian team in the Summer, before changing his mind and returning to Sheffield Arena.
But the win in Cardiff - in which DeCaro saved 26 shots - reinforced coach Ryan Finnerty’s faith in him.
“He saved us, that night,” said Finnerty. “He has had some pressure from the outside world but as a group and behind closed doors we are bonding as a team and we play for Johnny, because he is a massive part of our team.
“I back him 100 per cent. The crowd have to get behind him because he is an integral part of our set-up. We support Johnny; he is our number one guy.”
Team-mate James Jorgensen, who also played played in front of DeCaro at Louisiana CHL side Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs, added: “Johnny is absolutely the guy to win a championship. We really left him out to dry with three goals, (last Saturday) but he has a proven record.
“I’ve played with him before, I know he can do it I have all the confidence in the world in him.”
And winger Jason Hewitt tweeted after the Cardiff win: “any bigger performance than Decaro tonight?!!!! #brickwall.”
The club, clearly, wants Sheffield fans to start seeing their goalie in a different light.
And maybe that is starting to happen. One fan, Ryan Gleeson, tweeted: “Stresses me out that everyone is on DeCaro’s back. It is well known I don’t like Decaro but he made some ridiculous saves this weekend.”
Beccer Fowler posted: “All you DeCaro haters can **** off now! Although I’m sure you’ll find something to nitpick!”
However, Luc Chabot, a 17-season veteran Canadian player, who retired in 2004, says: “I don’t rate Decaro and it will cost them (Steelers.)”
DeCaro will start for Sheffield when they host early pacesetters Coventry Blaze this weekend (7pm).