SHEFFIELD STEELERS’ head coach Gerad Adams will make a decision over his starting goaltender ahead of tonight’s visit from Coventry Blaze as late as possible.
No 1 choice Frank Doyle has been out with a hand injury in recent weeks and was still not considered fit enough to start for Steelers in Thursday night’s 3-1 loss to Nottingham Panthers in the first leg of their Challenge Cup semi-final.
But replacement import Josh Unice did not finish the game after being involved in two collisions, the second of which forced him to leave the ice early in the third period to be replaced by back-up Geoff Woolhouse.
It was only Woolhouse’s second appearance of the season, and he will probably find himself starting against Coventry tonight (7pm), with fellow Brit Andrew Jaszczyk on the bench.
“We will wait until the last possible moment before we make a decision,” said Adams last night. “Josh is going to be out for at least a week. Frank is in contention to start, but whether he will be in any condition to, we’re not sure.”
After tonight’s visit from Coventry, Steelers head off to Belfast Giants tomorrow before Tuesday night’s second leg against the Panthers at the National Ice Centre – part of a hectic schedule of six games in 11 days for Adams’s players.
“It’s a bit of a crazy schedule for us, but it is what it is,” he added.
“It’s a mental as well as a physical challenge for the players, but we have been playing well recently and, at this stage of the season, you’re almost on auto-pilot in a way and it’s about staying fresh.
“I thought we played very well on Thursday and, at two goals down, we’re quite happy with where we’re at going into the NIC on Tuesday night.”
It has been a torturous season for Coventry and their fans – one which has seen the sacking of former Steelers’ player and assistant coach Marc LeFebvre as head coach. But the impact of replacement Chuck Weber has recently started to take effect.
Despite spending a five-week spell in December and January in the unfamiliar surroundings of the bottom two in the Elite League, the Blaze have slowly seen an upturn in results, winning six of their last eight games and with a second leg of their Challenge Cup semi-final against Cardiff Devils to come in South Wales later this week.
With the obvious quality on the Blaze roster – including former team-mates Ashley Tait and Steven Goertzen – Steelers’ captain Jonathan Phillips never doubted Blaze’s ability to get themselves out of trouble and expects a tough time at the Motorpoint Arena, with Coventry looking to bounce back from their 4-1 defeat to Cardiff in the first leg of their last four encounter.
“As soon as they brought in their new coach, we knew it was only going to be a matter of time before things started to improve for Coventry,” said Phillips.
“It would be unthinkable for Coventry not to make the play-offs and they’re in a far better position to do so after some good recent results.
“They are in a battle down there with a few other teams to make the play-offs and they are desperate for the points. But so are we at the other end of the table and it’s going to be a good battle.”