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Red Deer Rebels rookie Birnie seizes opportunity for first WHL goal

He has played just two games this season
Red Deer Rebels forward Carson Birnie fired in his first WHL goal against the Victoria Royals Wednesday evening at the Peavey Mart Centrium. (Photo by Ian Gustafson/ Advocate staff)

Since the very first time Carson Brinie stepped on the ice at the Peavey Mart Centriun in his WHL debut, he’s been itching for another shot.

Eight games later, a full month after his first game, Brinie finally got the chance to make his mark on the Red Deer Rebels roster.

With just five minutes left in the opening frame Wednesday night against Victoria Royals, Birnie led a two-on-one chance alongside Escalus Burlock.

The six-foot-one, 170-pound winger elected to shoot, picking the top left corner, short side for his first career WHL goal.

His teammates on the ice swarmed him and seemed just as happy if not happier than the youngster.

“It felt great. It was nice to get that one off my back for sure,” he said. “[My teammates] are really supportive. Obviously, I mean, getting into the lineup is tough, and getting the first one off the back so they’re pretty excited for me.”

Birnie explained while on the rush during that sequence he was looking to pass first across to Burlock but once he lifted his head he noticed the goaltender moved over slightly in anticipation of the cross-ice pass. Once that happened, Birnie shot for the corner and scored one of the more visually pleasing first goals you’ll see in the sport.

The fans in the Peavey Mart Centrium were also arguably at their loudest during that moment for Birnie Wednesday night.

“I mean a guy who was getting into the lineup for the second time I think they were kind of excited to see what I brought to the table. Obviously, they saw me score and brought a little excitement to the crowd so that was nice,” he added.

The 17-year-old from Arcola, Sask. said once he got notified he would play in the game it lit a fire under him.

“Once you get in you don’t want to come out, so it’s just all about having that mentality of you’re not coming out. It worked out for me,” he added.

Birnie’s performance even got the approval of head coach Steve Konowalchuk who gave Birnie credit Wednesday night.

“Birnie went in there and got a big goal but played a solid game the way we wanted… The guys that wanted to get some extra minutes they played well and proved they can play extra minutes,” Konowalchuk said.

Birnie may have earned himself some more playing time with his first tally but said winning puck battles was where he made a difference and gained more trust.

Between Birnie’s two game appearances, he remained with the Rebels and practiced with the team. Being around Birnie has learned a lot from his teammates and the coaching staff.

In the 2020 WHL Prospects Draft, Birnie was picked 160th overall in the eighth round. Since then, he’s played the last two seasons with Estevan Bears in U18 AAA where he scored 20 goals and 18 assists for 38 points.

He felt he made strides physically during his time in Estevan, where he got bigger and stronger.

“I could play the body a bit more and win more battles. I definitely improved skill-wise as well. I found my shot got a lot better last year because I was put into a lot of situations where I could use it,” he said.

In the summer, he focused solely on his strength. With the possibility of moving up to the next level, Birnie worked on putting on more weight.

“Coming into this league, it’s a big tough league… It’s been a lot more fast-paced. Got to make quick decisions– you don’t have that couple of seconds to think like I did when I was playing in Estevan,” he said.

The Rebels will play one more home game this week on Friday against the Vancouver Giants at 7 p.m. before traveling to Edmonton on Sunday.

It’s unclear at this point whether Birnie will be in the lineup or not, but with Ben King out long-term and with Ollie Josephson heading to play with Team Canada soon, he’ll be ready for the nod.

Ian Gustafson

About the Author: Ian Gustafson

Ian began his journalism career as a reporter in Prince Albert, Sask. for the last three years, and was born and raised in Saskatchewan.
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