How Cardiff Devils star Ben Bowns was almost turning out for Sheffield Steelers

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It's not widely known that Ben Bowns was well on his way to becoming a Steelers' player, last Summer.

The South Yorkshire-born goaltender held private talks with Sheffield and most of the details appear to have been agreed upon.

His signature would have put an end to the decade-long question that many people - including ex Steelers' coach Paul Thompson - have mused over: Why has this son of Swinton never played for his 'home' club?

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After all, he played in the Sheffield junior system, then Scimitars and Steeldogs, from 2003-12.

Last May, it was the terms offered by Cardiff Devils that turned Bowns' head and he returned from a Slovakian side to the Welsh club he'd played for with aplomb from 2014-2020.

It now seems clear that if Sheffield are to progress to the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup - they play Cardiff on Wednesday in the first leg - they are going to have to go through Bowns.

The 31-year-old Great Britain custodian stopped 31 Sheffield shots last Saturday, leading his side to their second win at the Arena this term.

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Going back to September when Devils won 3-1 at the Arena, he parried 29.

Cardiff Devils' Ben Bowns in action against Sheffield Steelers. Picture: Dean WoolleyCardiff Devils' Ben Bowns in action against Sheffield Steelers. Picture: Dean Woolley
Cardiff Devils' Ben Bowns in action against Sheffield Steelers. Picture: Dean Woolley

Fox acknowledged "Bownsy made some huge saves at key moments" in last Saturday's dent in Sheffield's title ambitions.

Now it is the coach's job to devise a plan that will make Bowns' life much more difficult than it has been at Broughton Lane, so far, this term.

Getting traffic in front of him will be vital.

But Sheffield are optimistic, despite two weekend losses.

"I don't think we lack confidence at all" said Fox.

"I think our group leans on each other, we know that we are a hard team to play against, we are in every hockey game.

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"The first leg is an important one and you want to get a lead, especially with us going on the road in the second leg.

"We have a resilient group, high calibre guys in that room - I expect us to bounce back and for us to be ready."

Fox said he would have preferred to have had the home leg first if it had been a choice between that and playing at iceSheffield.

He added: "If we take care of business and play our game it really shouldn't matter."

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Certainly, Sheffield must be better than they were in the shootout loss to Coventry Blaze on Sunday, where Fox admitted only the Tomas Pitule-Brandon McNally-Mason Mitchell role-playing line was above average.

Steelers were lucky to get a single point out of the game.

And the result - their third loss in four games - poses questions about consistency, especially against aggressive sides.

Steelers are now embarking on a period of 14 games in 39 days into the New Year...and they need to get better.