Sheffield Steelers' new signing Ben Churchfield 'quietly confident' ahead of new season
Ben Churchfield couldn't ask for much better preparation for his debut season with Sheffield Steelers.
The 24-year-old goalie - like everyone else in the EIHL - is eagerly waiting for news as to whether the 2020-21 season will take place.
Athletes cannot afford to sit idly by while the decision-makers analyse the coronavirus trend and how it could affect indoor sport.
They have to stay fit and ready for the call, should it come.
Churchfield, the former Bawtry lad who has spent the last five years in America, has been sharpening his skills this summer alongside a netminder who has represented Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues in the NHL.
"Right now I am working very closely with my coach Hannu Toivonen, (Finnish goaltender, four years, 61 games in the NHL, seven years, 214 games in the AHL),” he told The Star.
"He's become a great friend of mine, over here in Portland, Maine," the new Steelers' signing said.
"Maine is quite remote so I’ve been fortunate enough to have access to the ice every day.
"And with the lockouts I've been lucky to be training with mostly KHL and AHL players which I hope will make the transition to Sheffield easier."
Churchfield describes his long stint in the NCAA Division III set-up with University of New England as fundamental to his development.
"It taught me a lot more than just hockey; I credit it with making me the person I am today.
"My experience has been more than I could have hoped for.
"When we shutout the defending national champions 1-0 in my first year, the team entered the NCAA national rankings, which are the top 15 teams out of 90 in Division III, for the first time in school history, and has not left the rankings since then.
"We also won the first conference title in programme history, the first NCAA national tournament win and I'm the school's all time leader in Wins, Win percentage, Save percentage, GAA and shutouts."
The netminder believes he can turn a few heads, should Steelers team be assembled for a covid-protected season.
"I hope to be a pleasant surprise when I come in. I'm quietly confident I can handle myself at the Elite League level.
"When you're planning out your career path you need to go somewhere you are going to get ice time and are valued.
"I'm a developing goalie and I need to play to do that. Aaron, (Fox; Sheffield coach) has been on the same page as me and is going to give me the opportunities to succeed.
"My end of that promise is I now have to come in, play well and consistently show that he and the team can trust me to be the guy who is in the crease for them night in and night out.
"That's going to be a great learning experience in itself and it's a really exciting stage in my development, stepping into the pro game."