Carberry is now home to a gold medallist. Goaltender Carson Bjarnason helped guide Team Canada to the promised land last week as they won gold at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. The team never trailed throughout the entire tournament and had one of the most dominant performances in Canadian hockey history.
This is the highest honour a hockey player under 18 can receive, as the likes of Sidney Crosby, Drew Doughty, and Carey Price have all been a part of the team at one point or another. Bjarnason describes what he felt when he first put on his gold medal.
"You can't explain it. It's something I'll only ever do once with that exact group at this age. So, I just made sure to enjoy it and be in the moment. I made sure to soak it all in. I couldn't have asked for a better group to do it with."
The goaltender hasn't found a spot to put his gold medal quite yet but says he will have to hang it up somewhere alongside his Team Canada jersey. Bjarnason started one game in the tournament and says it was incredible to lead the pack onto the ice.
"When you're put in that situation, your mind races quite a bit. You think about who and what you're representing. The first thought is obviously how much of an honour it is. It is crazy and surreal," Bjarnason explains. "In other ways, it's kind of the same as any other game, once you put that jersey on, you're representing the team on the front. You get yourself into the game about five minutes in, and after feeling a couple of pucks, you're ready to go."
The Carberry product stopped 19 of the 20 shots he faced in a 9-1 victory over Slovakia in the round-robin portion of the tournament and notes he was proud of that performance.
Team Canada's games were broadcast nationwide on TSN, and while Bjarnason notes he forgot about it initially, he geeked out a little bit when he heard Craig Button say his name when the team was watching film together.
"You go unnoticed for as long as I did, and then you're playing for Team Canada, representing your country, and two of the best broadcasters are saying your name and complimenting the way you play, it's a huge honour."
Bjarnason now feels much more prepared heading into his second season as a Brandon Wheat King.
"That was one of the main things I was looking forward to, I was really excited to be able to go to this because I knew it would be a great kick start to the season," Bjarnason continues. "You can't practice being in game shape. You can take all of the steps to be able to play in a game but you can't replicate the cardio you get in a game and obviously the speed of it too. So, I was really happy I got to play because it's going to be huge for me coming into this season."
It was less than one year ago that Bjarnason earned a spot on the Wheat Kings as an undrafted 16-year-old, beating out two drafted players for the backup role. The goalie says the main thing he learned from this whole experience is to trust the process.
"I took a bit of a different route than everybody else that was there. They were all high draft picks, and all went to the U17 showcase," Bjarnason explains. "For me, I just have to keep going down the path that I'm on and not change the way that I play. They chose me for a reason they said, they like the way I played. Those were two huge things, and off the ice, you have to be a good person. You can only make it so far in hockey by just being a good player, you also have to have a great off-ice attitude."
Bjarnason believes this was a great showing for his work ethic and notes being the only person on the team who wasn't a part of Team Canada in any way before was a boost for his confidence.
While the goaltender always likes to remain humble, he says his family can't quite hold their excitement like he can.
"They like to celebrate and showcase it a bit more than I do. They've been huge for me. I couldn't be here without them all. Aunties, uncles, grandparents, and parents obviously have been very supportive," says Bjarnason. "After every game, they always text me saying they're proud or that they love me. It's really awesome to have those people around when you're succeeding but also when you're struggling."
Bjarnason is so grateful for the opportunity noting he's come away with 22 new good friends. The Carberry product looks to take over the starting role in net this coming season for the Brandon Wheat Kings.