Sheffield Steelers’ quiet goalie deserves something to shout about

Ervins Mustukovs
Ervins Mustukovs

You have to spare a thought for Ervins Mustukovs this Christmas.

All goaltenders love their clean-sheets, and he is no different.

The alluring promise of a shut-out has been agonisingly close for the Latvian, this term.

In Sheffield Steelers’ 3-1 triumph at Coventry Blaze on Thursday, he was precisely 26 seconds away from achieving that aim before Barry Almeida scored the home side’s only success on nine Power Play attempts.

On December 4, there was less than ten minutes on the clock, Steelers were winning 5-0 when Nottingham’s Logan MacMillan put the puck past him.

But the most dramatic spoiling-tactic/consolation came on November 12, against Panthers, whom Steelers welcome to the House of Steel again, today.

In the last second of a game Steelers were strolling through 8-0, Brad Moran netted.

Across all competitions, including friendlies, Sheffield have conceded a single goal in no fewer than 12 games....which indicates how close “The Moose” has come to shutting out the opposition, as we head into the second half of the ice hockey programme.

The Latvian, who has a 90.50 per cent save ratio, is not known for a sense of theatrics.

Asked on a previous occasion about losing a shut out to a late goal, he said that the most important thing was that his side had got maximum points.

On Thursday, when Almeida spoiled his immaculate work, coach Paul Thompson admitted his taciturn netminder was “a little bit disappointed.”

How good would it be if he recorded his first today?

It would follow in the season footprints of his rival netminders, Miika Wiikman, (Nottingham) Joe Fallon, (Dundee) Shane Owen, (Fife) Brian Stewart, (Coventry) Stephen Murphy, (Belfast) and Mike Clemente (Manchester.)

Thompson would not swap any Elite League goalie for the 32-year-old, who is now in his second spell at the club, having won silverware in 2010-11, under Ben Simon’s reign.

The form of the six-footer, and his high-speed defencemen, is one of the principal reasons why Sheffield are still in with a shout of catching Cardiff Devils, who lord it at the top of the division.

In fact, while Steelers have had scoring issues - up until the last two games - the defence has been consistent, especially now they have been strengthened by another returnee - Jace Coyle.

The vast majory of the 9,300 fans at the Sheffield Arena today will be hoping Mustukovs will have little to do in the game against Panthers..but nobody is banking on that.