Scoring his first Western Hockey League (WHL) goal will be a memory Evan Smith will never forget.
Last Friday against one of the league’s top teams the Prince George Cougars, the Red Deer Rebels rookie opened the scoring early in the first period.
To make it even more memorable, it was in his home province of British Columbia.
“It felt great. I mean just going in there, having a good mindset, and burying one was pretty special,” Smith said.
Smith was fed by defenceman Nicholas Andrusiak who sent him on a two-on-two opportunity into the offensive zone.
The Kelowna, B.C. native skated up the right side and fired a wrist shot from the top of the circle that beat Cougars goaltender Joshua Ravensbergen.
“Luckily it went in,” Smith chuckled. “[My teammates] were pretty excited. They all just came in and it was a good time. It was all laughs and smiles. It was nice and a good feeling.”
It was also Smith’s first point of the season appearing in 15 of the Rebels 18 games so far. Despite that, he feels like he still has more to contribute.
“I think I’ve had a bit of a slow start. I feel like I still have an extra gear in me but I’m pretty sure as the season continues I’ll fill into my role. Hopefully, I’ll get a few more points here,” he said.
Smith was drafted by the Rebels 95th overall in the fifth round of the 2021 WHL Prospects draft.
The 17-year-old spent last season at the Yale Hockey Academy playing for their U18 squad where he reached a career-high 10 goals and 22 assists for 32 points. He added two goals in four playoff games.
His successful year in minor hockey gave him confidence heading into Rebels training camp helping him earn a roster spot.
“I wanted to be positive coming into training camp. I was working all summer so I think I could have made the team and luckily I did,” he said adding he spent the offseason training in Kelowna.
“I did explosive work more than lifting this summer. I did lots of endurance training as well knowing camp was going to be hard this year.”
The Rebels continued their early season struggles through their B.C. road trip winning just one of five games.
This weekend they’ll look to rebound in Calgary against the Hitmen on Friday night and will rematch on Saturday in Red Deer at 7 p.m.
“We’ve had a great week of practice so far. We just need to keep playing our way and I think we could come out with two wins this weekend.”