NETMINDER Ben Bowns freely admits he found stepping up to the Elite League a ‘shock to the system’ – but believes he is now adjusting well to life at the top level.
The 21-year-old Rotherham-born netminder made the move to East Yorkshire following three successful years with EPL outfit the Sheffield Steeldogs, with last season culminating in a call-up to the senior Great Britain squad under head coach Tony Hand.
And it’s been a baptism of fire for the young Yorkshireman, with a current GAA of 4.0 and having faced the second-highest amount of shots in the league, producing an 89.1 save percentage.
But gradually, Bowns has grown into his new role and is happy to take on the higher expectation levels he has inherited now he is a first-choice goalie in the UK’s top flight.
Andre Payette, Bowns’s coach in Sheffield, believes the netminder will eventually become GB’s No 1 goalie and had hoped he would remain for at least one more season. But the attraction of making the next step up proved too much to resist.
Bowns is one of only two British-born starting goalies in the Elite League – Belfast’s Stephen Murphy being the other – and is aware of the pressure there is on him to repay the faith shown in him by Stingrays’ player-coach Sylvain Cloutier.
“It was a bit of a shock to the system in terms of the speed at this level to be honest, but once you get used to it, you soon gain more confidence,” said Bowns. “Once you make the jump up to the Elite League, you soon realise how much of a jump it is. And the league only seems to be getting better.
“To be a British-born starter in this league is a big privilege. It’s a massive confidence boost and the fact that Hull gave me a two-year contract shows that they have a lot of faith in me.
“Clouts has invested a lot of time in me and it’s an incentive to play well for somebody like that.”
Hull have had something of a mixed start to the season so far. Last weekend saw them lose in shoot-outs to the Coventry Blaze, in the Challenge Cup and in the league at home to the Braehead Clan. On both occasions they had got themselves into a winning position. But defensive lapses had also forced the Stingrays to come from behind in both games, something Bowns acknowledges has to change.
“The shots the guys are letting through are mostly coming from wide, which is good,” added Bowns.
“But we keep having mental lapses like on Sunday last week against Braehead when we went 3-0 behind in the second period. We need to sort that kind of thing out quickly.”
Hull face a home double-header this weekend, hosting Dundee Stars on Saturday night (6.30pm) before the visit of defending league champions Belfast Giants on Sunday (6pm).
Cloutier said his team must take advantage of home ice, in particular against Gardiner Conference rivals Dundee who they lost 3-2 against on Tayside three weeks ago.
“We must make sure we pick up some points at home this weekend,” said Cloutier.
“We’ve played well against Nottingham, Cardiff and Sheffield at home and we will be hoping to give Dundee and Belfast a real good game too.”