The adjustment to Junior “A” hockey was pretty smooth and quick for 18-year-old Braden Birnie as the homegrown Weyburn Red Wing product had eight points in his first seven games, but the 6-foot-1, 170-pound winger has found out it won’t always be that easy as he has been held off the scoresheet in five straight entering a crucial home-and-home set with the Estevan Bruins.
Birnie was hot out of the gate collecting a goal and an assist in a season-opening 2-0 win over the Bruins and he followed that up with helpers in his next two outings. A two-game dry spell was then followed by a three-point performance against the Melville Millionaires, but his last point was the game-winning tally at the beginning of October when the Red Wings defeated the Nipawin Hawks.
Birnie joined the Red Wings after one season with the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League’s Regina Pat Canadians where he averaged more than a point per game collecting 24 points in 23 tilts. Prior to moving up the highway to Regina, Birnie spent two seasons with his hometown Midget AA Red Wings and at that level he had no trouble putting up points finishing that stretch with 111 points in 68 games.
During his second season of Midget AA hockey, Birnie got his first taste of playing with the big boys as he saw action in one game with the SJHL Red Wings and two contests with Fort Knox of the Prairie Junior Hockey League. While he was held off the scoresheet in all three of those matches, he did get the experience of playing against bigger, older and stronger players.
The Red Wings appear to be in a season-long battle with Estevan, Melville and Yorkton for the Viterra Division title, but more importantly they are also in a dogfight to capture one of the eight playoff spots. When Birnie hits the scoresheet the Red Wings are 3-2; in all other games they are 2-6-0-1 so his contributions are invaluable to team success.