Sheffield Steelers will always have first dibs on Curtis, says Bees coach

Curtis Warburton's new coach Doug Sheppard says he will always honour his pledge to allow Sheffield Steelers first call on the goalie no matter what injuries might arise at his own NIHL club.

By Bob Westerdale
Tuesday, 17th August 2021, 11:36 am
Curtis Warburton.
Curtis Warburton.

The 19-year-old netminder has inked an agreement with lower-league Bees IHC, where he will compete as starting netminder in Slough.

But Warburton can be parachuted back into EIHL Sheffield's roster if the import netminder or number two, Ben Churchfield, are out of the reckoning.

Sheppard has a three-year connection with Steelers.

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He was an assistant coach under Dave Matsos at the Arena and has fond memories of his time and personal development there.

Now, he hopes to play a part in Warburton's own progress, having watched him play well in the Elite League series.

"I am told by guys who have played against him and Aaron Fox (Sheffield coach) whose opinion I trust, that Curtis is a big, technical goalie," said Sheppard.

"What I like best is his attitude, he has definitely been around the right people. He wants the opportunity to fight for a starting job and that is a perfect situation for him here.

Randy Deganais and Doug Sheppard in bouyant mood back in 2007. Photo: Rik Rayner

"With playing close to 70 games it is ideal to have a tandem situation. I am sure he and Adam Goss will go on runs throughout the season and I think that is going to be a great battle through friendly competition.

"A lot of weekends will be a split but whoever gives us the best possibility of a win is going to be in the net.

"But I am not here to hold Curtis back. If he has got an opportunity to play at EIHL level he is going to be playing there."

Sheppard and Fox discussed the possibility of Warburton occasionally sitting on the bench at Sheffield as injury cover.

"Steelers have first priority over him, if they need him to back up for them, that's what he will do.

"He can gain experience from being on the bench as well."

Sheppard thought Warburton had been close to signing for Leeds Knights at one stage but the goalie decided that the starting opportunity presented at Bees would be better for him.

The Slough-rink based coach was relieved Warburton didn't continue to play for Sheffield Steeldogs, for whom he has dressed 53 times.

"They like their goalie (Dmitri Zimozdra) and look strong all round. They've picked up Jason Hewitt and with Hull Pirates not going this year they could pick up a few others.

"They look like they have got the strongest theam they've had for years.

"It is funny - you would think that lots of two way deals with Steelers but for whatever reason it hasn't happened, I'm not sure why."

He described the fact that GB goalie and Swinton native Ben Bowns had never signed for Steelers was "crazy." Bowns was at Steeldogs from 2010-12.

Sheppard said his own three years at the Arena were hugely helpful to him.

"Winning the trophies there was as good as it gets.

"Working with people like Matsos and others you can pick up so many things. We had a lot of great leaders, Legue, Talbot, Munn, Tait, Thomas, Finnerty.

"Matty was a players' coach, I was a lot more intense when I went there but I learned if you get the right leadership in place you let the locker room do a lot of the talking."

As for the current-day EIHL environment, Sheppard said: "The Elite League has taken off with the quality of imports that they are getting these days."

Barnsley's former Steelers' goalie Davey Lawrence is joining Leeds Junior Knights as 'goaltending consultant.'