Bob Westerdale: The fascinating puzzle of Sheffield Steelers' goaltending

Goaltending continues to be the primary talking point among Sheffield Steelers' fans.

Friday, 15th October 2021, 10:30 am

Barry Brust played his first full EIHL game last Saturday, conceding six to Guildford Flames. He didn't make the trip for the following day's match in Surrey.

Many of the fans remain puzzled about a goalie that has played just five periods in six games so far.

His bosses have been nothing but supportive for the 38-year-old Canadian stopper, though.

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In last weekend's programme, coach Aaron Fox remarked that Brust had looked "really solid and will only get better. The combination of the two goalies is working well for us."

Brust's "experience and skill will be a huge benefit" for the younger goalies in the system, Ben Churchfield and Curtis Warburton, said Fox.

Steelers' owner Tony Smith described Brust as "class."

That must be a relief for all concerned given the fact that Smith departed from the pre-season plan of funding just one import goalie.

The 'other' import is Rok Stojanovic, the 31-year-old Slovenian, whom the club said had arrived "on trial."

That trial seems to be going pretty well. His save percentage in the win at Coventry Blaze was 97.37%, for instance.

Stojanovic has won every game he's played in, doing a huge amount to nullify Manchester Storm, Cardiff Devils, Coventry Blaze, and Guildford, away.

So Fox's decision on who plays this weekend is intriguing.

Barry Brust in action; pic Hayley Roberts.

In the last main season, the coach had wanted to only play the "hot goalie," which was Tomas Duba. So hot, in fact that Pavel Kantor's Steeler career ended abruptly.

So will Fox pick 'hot' Stojanovic for a spell or will the coach - to use his words - "ease Barry" into action and split weekend games between the two?

The other dynamic in the goaltending scenario is that of Churchfield.

Fox has described him as having the "potential to be a full-time starter in this League at some point."

Rok Stojanovic: pic Scott Wiggins.

He's only had one period of EIHL action so far, though, and has now begun a two-way association with Leeds Knights in the NIHL, playing when their starter Sam Gospel needs a rest.

So goaltending is something of a fascinating if moveable feast at the moment.

The other story on Steeler lips this week has been that of Anthony DeLuca.

Last weekend, the winger inexplicably booted Flames' goaltender Kevin Lindskoug.

He was banned for two games and will complete his suspension on Saturday night, missing the Nottingham Panthers' clash.

There is nothing remotely good you can say about DeLuca's actions.

Ben Churchfield pic by Dean Woolley

But give him credit for the way he accepted responsibility for the red mist temporarily obscuring his sense of reason.

"I’d like to apologize for my actions...in the heat of the moment, I let my emotions get the better of me. It was dumb and instantly regretted. I am truly sorry for my actions and lack of professionalism" he tweeted.

The forward is often on the receiving end of over-the-top physical treatment; it's obviously hard to keep a lid on his temper.

But DeLuca will learn and grow from this disagreeable experience. He certainly won't want to let down his team-mates and fans again.