Ben Bowns - Late season Interview
We're well into the business end of the season now and the Devils game schedule has been pretty non-stop. That didn't stop us from hassling the #1 net-minder to answer some questions, and Bownsy was happy to take some time out to give us some answers.The-Inferno - So first things first, how are you finding living in Cardiff and experiencing the city full time?
Ben Bowns - I absolutely love Cardiff and so does Jade! The city centre is great and the bay is beautiful, plus the team put us up in a great location so I don’t even have to use my car…I even walk into the rink some mornings for training just because I enjoy walking along the water so much. I still find it weird but great how there is so much to do in Cardiff yet its all really close together and all in the same place really. The first week I must have got lost 9 or 10 times but once you get used to the city it’s dead easy to get around and find whatever you need.
The-Inferno - How have you found playing in the BBT so far this season? We're getting massively improved crowds and atmosphere, the Bownsy Wave seems to be going down pretty well?
Ben Bowns - It's amazing, I look forward to every home game and after the 5 away games in a row a few week ago I woke up on the morning of the fife game and got so excited when I realised we were playing back at home that night. The atmosphere is unbelievable and nothing like I’ve experienced before. It used to be daunting coming into the BBT when the Devils only used to have 1200 fans in there when we came with Hull, so I can only imagine what it must be like for teams coming in now with 2000 of you crazy fans making all that noise you do.
I can remember a few years back watching an interview on Sky with Ryan Finnerty and he said “I used to hate the BBT until I came to Cardiff, now its my favourite” at the time I thought how can you have the BBT as your favourite, but now I’ve experienced the character it has, the atmosphere that the fans create and how unique it is I can totally understand where he was coming from. The BBT is my favourite rink that I have ever played in by far!
As for the wave, I really didn’t expect it to be as popular as it has been, it’s pretty awesome how it took off like it did! I think the next challenge is to get the whole arena doing it at the same time… I've got to work out how to do that though!!
The-Inferno - How's the National Goaltending Program working out with the EIHA? Do you get much chance to work on that during the season or is it something that gets more attention during the offseason?
Ben Bowns - It’s something that has been put to the side during the season, I haven’t really had any contact from the heads of the coaching program at all since the summer (even though one lives in Cardiff), so I’ve put my focus on the Cardiff Junior Goalies. We set up a Goalie Program here for the juniors that will hopefully not only develop goalies but also help attract new goalies to the club as well. I think they’ve already got a few more joined at u10 level since it got put in place at the start of the season, so thats pretty encouraging. I work with Dan Brabon every Wednesday night, unless we have a game, running a goalie session for the CDF and you can see a huge improvement in the goalies there already.
The-Inferno - When we spoke to you in the offseason you mentioned wanting to play in the Erhardt conference to challenge yourself. Have you noticed much of a difference between the conferences?
Ben Bowns - Yeah, I’ve noticed a huge difference. There seems to be a lot more emotion in the games and they’re more intense. I’m not saying that there isn’t any intensity in Gardiner Conference games, thats far from the truth. It’s kind of hard to explain but the day after a game against our conference rivals you can really feel it, and even as a goalie you know you’ve been in a battle as its not just physical but the mental side of the game is much tougher too. I know if I make a mistake, even though I have a great team in front of me there’s less chance for us to get back into it this year. I must say though, that I have never enjoyed my hockey as much as this year, its been unbelievable and winning with this group of guys just makes it more special.
The-Inferno - 7 shutouts and counting for the season so far, that equals the teams EIHL record from 08/09, you must be pretty happy with that?
Ben Bowns - I’m over the moon with that! Last season I was the only goalie in the league to not record a shutout, although I did come close a few times, it did suck…so to get 7 in one season is unreal! Any goalie will tell you though, that you’re nothing without the players in front of you and I think the 7 shutouts is probably more of a testament to the guys and Lordo than it is to me. I’m sure people will have noticed the amount of shots that get blocked in front me, when you see this it shows the guys are playing for you and the team and as a goalie it really gets you going. I mean, these shots hurt me and sting me and I have all the equipment on to prevent that, so I can only imagine how much pain some of the guys must be in after blocking those shots or the amount of bruises they’ll go home with. I guess thats why the team goes through so many bags of ice after a game!
The-Inferno - You've just survived your first triple header in Devils colours, can you give us an idea of what it's like to play so many away games in such a short space of time and how you go about preparing?
Ben Bowns - I (and the team) have the luxury of having the best back-up goalie in the league in Willsy so I was given that 3rd game off in order to rest up and prepare for the Challenge Cup Semi-final first leg. It is tough on the body and I think you could see it on the guys late in the Sunday game against Dundee, the emotion of the game in Braehead the night before was probably kicking in by then and I think you could even see it on our fans…even they looked drained, and why wouldn’t they because they travelled the same distance we did and put in as much effort as us guys and out cheered over 2000 Braehead fans, it was unreal!
But I think for me personally the key, not just for the triple header but for the past few weeks where we’ve had our intense schedule, was to be able to switch off from hockey and give my brain a rest. Its something I really struggled with at the start of the season, I’d not had to really do it properly before, there wasn’t loads of pressure in Hull, just loads and loads of shots! If I’m being honest the tonnes of shots I saw in Hull is probably easier than the amount of shots I face here.
My team is so good that they can control large amounts of play in the offensive zone for long periods of time so its easy to switch off and let a soft goal in. I think especially over the past few month I’ve started getting the hang of being able to switch back on and off in the blink of an eye during the game so that I don’t wear my self out, but also to let bad goals go and forget about them rather than dwelling on them. Its funny because the more you think about the bad goals the more likely you are to concede the same goal again!
So, back on track, the triple header is probably more mentally tiring than physical for me personally, so the key is to give my brain a rest from hockey whenever I get chance and give it chance to relax and recuperate ready for the next game.
The-Inferno - And following on from that, how much difference does it make having such a large away following on these trips?
Ben Bowns - It makes a massive difference having you guys there in the numbers you are! You make away games feel like home games, when we see how many fans travel up and the distance, time and money they’ve spent just to come and watch us play, it really makes you want to get that win that extra bit more and not let you down.
I know I’m English but the Welsh national anthem is probably the most passionate anthem I’ve heard and when the fans are all singing it, whether it’s at home or away, it always gives me goosebumps and gets me pumped up for a game. Although if I’m being honest the way the anthem was sang in Braehead was the one that I’ll never forget, it really set the tone for what was a huge match for us.
The-Inferno - Glorious victory over the Coventry Blaze in the 1st leg of the CC semi-final, have you managed to recover yet?
Ben Bowns - Because i was so slow in getting this back to you, at the the time of writing this we’ve played the second leg and made it through to the final!! I must admit that after the Fife game I did feel the last few weeks catching up and then in the 3rd period of the 2nd leg I could feel the tiredness kicking in again, but luckily the guys played even harder, really helped me out and made my job pretty easy.
In my professional career so far getting to the final through a tough quarter and semi-final has been my highlight of these past 3 years…but I’m not planning on it staying the highlight because I’m hoping I get to experience an even better high on the 8th March!!
The-Inferno - Thanks for taking the time to speak to us again, is there anything you'd like to add?
Ben Bowns - The season so far has been amazing, the team is the best team I’ve ever had the pleasure of being a part of, the club is awesome and the fans are the best in the League and I don’t think it would be far off saying that I’d guess you’d be the best in Europe! BUT, this seasons isn’t over yet…yes we have a Challenge Cup Final but first we have two huge games before that. We're still in the hunt and with a chance of winning all 4 trophies that we can this season! To do that and have the best chance we need the Red Army right behind us all the way through to the end as I’m sure you will be! Lets finish this season the way Cardiff Devils deserve this season to finish!!
Once again a huge thanks to Ben for the interview.
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