IT’S taken Steve Birnstill a while, but he’s finally found his goalscoring touch.
His unexpected hat-trick in Sunday’s win at Edinburgh Capitals doubled his Sheffield Steelers’ tally for the entire season. And it was a fitting reward for the 26-year-old American, who has taken some time to adjust, in his maiden season in the Elite League, says coach Ryan Finnerty.
“I think Bernie was little shocked by scoring three, but it’s fitting because he’s playing well. I’ve only just cottoned on to the fact that the more responsibilities you give him the better he plays. If you ask him to just sit back and be one of the numbers making up the D-corps I think he gets bored, but he’s so skilled and, like Rod Sarich, is good at creating turnovers” said Finnerty.
“A role with more leadership ccomes with being more familiar with the league. He’s become one of our best D-men. This is a strange league; a guy with 300 NHL games can come here and doesn’t fit in but someone from the Central League can arrive and light the place up.”
Finnerty says he still has to “rein back” Birnstill as his priority is ensuring Sheffield don’t concede goals.
“Bernie is very coachable he knows if he has made a mistake and doesn’t get down on himself and he is good to have in the (locker) room.
“I am pleased he got his hat-trick because he deserves a reward for all the hard work he has been doing defensively.
“His first two goals showed he has got such soft hands in front of goal and he got a bit of luck when his third went in off a skate. He was delighted!”
Finnerty has had issues with his defence this year but he said: “Hopefully we’re getting there. The quicker we get the puck out of our zone the better team we are.”