Marc Lefebvre rolls his Dundee Stars side into Sheffield tonight with a refreshingly honest take on the standard of Elite League goal tending this year.
The former Sheffield skater, now a coach north of the border, has had his ups and downs in the netminding department - his first pick Vlastimil Lakosil disappearing to make an early start on wedding plans.
‘Favor’ filled the slot with 41-year-old Trevor Koenig - whom Steelers had looked at when Tyler Plante started experiencing form and fitness issues before eventually being replaced by Marek Pinc. Koenig, after 11 games, is the bottom-placed goalie in save-percentage terms across the EIHL. Pinc is second from bottom.
Lefebvre says: “Trevor has had some great moments and at other times he’s slipped up - he’s a veteran, he knows that better than anybody.
“He is getting there, but it is taking longer to get there than we originally thought.
“He was very good in last Sunday’s win over Braehead Clan but, across the board, I think goaltending has been iffy in most of the league clubs this season. There is so much inconsistency, and Pinc has had that problem like everybody else.”
Which goaltender makes the least mistakes will influence the scoreline at iceSheffield when Steelers take on Stars (7pm.)
Lefebvre is well aware that Steelers flopped dismally on that ice surface last Tuesday, going down 0-8 to Nottingham Panthers.
“They are going to be desperate to win, but we have taken points from games with them this year and we’re not scared of them” said the coach.
Stars have their eyes on fifth place in the League and two wins this weekend would secure them a Play Off place. “Five is the magic number for us and it is a tough challenge, Sheffield are not the only club to have had injuries, travel and transport schedule issues. There are no excuses in sport you just have to get on with it.
“We cannot compete with Sheffield, Nottingham, Cardiff and Belfast in terms of budget - only Edinburgh has a smaller one than us, we are very financially responsible.
“But we can compete on the ice and that’s what we hope to do this weekend.”
Steelers have seven league games left - two of them against the Panthers side that rocked their world mid-week, turfing them out of the Challenge Cup.
“Nottingham may have caught Sheffield on two bad nights, but on the other hand, Panthers could win the League. If I was to make a guess I’d say Cardiff will win it though.”
Sheffield have lost four out of their last six at home and since November, seven out of 17. But a home win over Dundee Stars tonight, followed by a similar feat at Coventry on Sunday would set up a grandstand finale to the League season.
Just five League matches remain after this weekend. The sequence gives Sheffield the chance to get their own back on Nottingham, on March 12 and and 19, while they have Fife, twice, and Coventry to play also.
* Belfast Giants stormed back from a goal down with five strikes in the final period to seal a 5-1 victory over a stunned Nottingham Panthers.
Juraj Kolnik’s effort in the first period put Nottingham ahead, and they held their slender lead until the third session, the game changing thanks to quickfire goals from David Rutherford and Mike Radja.
Craig Peacock added a third before Colin Shields and Michael Forney added gloss to the scoreline to hand Belfast a fourth consecutive Elite League win.