The news that many fans have been longing to hear comes off the back of some sad news. Coventry Blaze Netminder Kevin Nastiuk has sadly had to step down from his starting position due to illness and this has made way for Miika Wiikman to step in.
Panthers fans have been following him since their hugely successful season back stopping the team to Continental Cup glory. He’s always been a fan favourite. While his feelings of certain teams in the Elite League have been widely known, it seems that Wiikman and the Coventry Blaze have drawn a line under the past and he’s signed to backstop the side for the 2018/19 season.
There have been mixed feelings among the Blaze fans but most seem happy to have in a replacement they see as fitting for Nastiuk. Wiikman comes to the Blaze with a wealth of experience, including the AHL. He also appeared in a couple of exhibition games for the New York Rangers as well as a wealth of experience from two years with the Panthers and a year with the MK Lightning.
For the last two years, Wiikman has been brought in to replace injured players, he hasn’t been any teams first pick. With an average of .900 sv% he isn’t the highest ranked player and with some questionable on ice behaviour and equally dubious tweets posted online about other teams and their arenas, some fans may understand why he hasn’t been. Does his on ice performance excuse his behaviour on the ice?
Other notable goaltenders, such as Brian Stewart and Mike Clemente were also known for their on-ice temper tantrums, however their performances outweighed their performance. Wiikman has also been plagued by injury since coming to the EIHL, so hasn’t actually played a full season, which could be another reason for his performance appearing as less than any other goalie.
However, over the summer he seems to have been working on his fitness, taking up cycling in a more competitive way and sharing that with his followers on instagram.
Fans were disheartened when it seemed like he might be leaving the Elite League for good, however Wiikman has made the hard decision to leave his family behind in Finland and step up once again. His young son has recently started school and for that reason his family won’t be coming with him this season.
At this time, I’d like to wish Kevin Nastiuk all the best for the future and we hope that whatever the problem is, it can get better. We wish him the best of luck.
Photo Credit: Matthew Welch Photography