A debate has arisen about Steelers goalie Geoff Woolhouse and whether coach Ryan Finnerty should look to the future, jettison the import goalie position, play Woolhouse and thus gain the team a ‘Skating advantage’ of playing 10 imports.
It’s similar to what Cardiff do with Stevie Lyle, Edinburgh with Nathan Craze and the Belfast Giants with Stephen Murphy.
Steelers won’t have this problem for another 12 months as starting goalie John DeCaro is already signed up for next season, with Woolhouse already agreed and deal done to return as No2.
As much as I love Geoff Woolhouse and his performances this year and last have been amazing, I would be nervous with that step to a British one-two goalie pairing.
Right now Murphy is in a league of his own and the only British goalie playing for a team with winning ambition. Cardiff are a mid-place team and Edinburgh will just about qualify for the Final Eight play-off round. Therefore there isn’t the pressure on Lyle or Craze to win every night, something there would be on Woolhouse should he take that No1 position.
Woolhouse is in the top three of British goalies and should, in my opinion, make the men’s senior team for next month’s World Championships in Slovenia. If Lyle doesn’t make the trip, and he hasn’t for the last couple of years, then Woolhouse and not Craze should back up Murphy with Steeldogs youngster Ben Bowns again traveling as the third training goalie.
In Britain and in the Elite League we ask our goalies to play more games than they would expect to do in North America. We forget that, back in Canada there will be two starting goalies, maybe 35 games each.
Then a guy comes over here and we ask him to play 60, sometimes three in three nights, or like this week, three in four. A tough ask. This is where, in my opinion we can use Geoff more and more; keeping both goalies fresh and use him in the middle game of a three in three.
The advantage the Steelers have in goaltending right now is that we have two excellent goalies, one as good as any starter in the league and one, head and shoulders the best back-up in the league – and better than a fair few starters.
If I was in a fifth or sixth place team I might take the gamble, might roll the dice take Woolhouse and start with him throwing an extra forward up front to try and score me the goals to move up the standings. The coach of the Steelers doesn’t have that headache as his task is much bigger ... how do you win a championship? how do you win over 54 league games? I’m still of the opinion that you do that with the best North American goalie you can find at the price you can afford.
I wouldn’t swap John DeCaro for any other goalie in the league while Woolhouse has made huge strides and the Steelers love him. He can certainly play a part in the team winning trophies this season and next.
With the Steelers playing in Braehead tonight and two more home games planned for this weekend the title hopes are still alive but should things not go to plan they have to make sure they grab second position.
Play Off groupings change a lot and the second-place team face Hull in round one with the third place team facing either Braehead or Coventry – let Nottingham take on one of those clubs.
See you at the Motorpoint Arena this weekend; Saturday v Braehead (7pm) and Sunday v Cardiff (5pm). For tickets call 0114 2565656.