Having experienced a championship series from the stands helps new Vancouver Giants starting goalie Brett Mirwald to imagine what witnessing an extended playoff run from the crease would be like.
Mirwald grew up in Saskatoon and one of the WHL teams he followed was the Regina Pats, who featured his cousin Jake Leschyshyn. The Leschyshyn-led Pats had the host berth for the 2018 Memorial Cup national championships, and a 14-year-old Mirwald spent that week in Regina, watching every game of the four-team event and soaking it all in.
“It was crazy. These buildings are loud, but that was another level,” Mirwald said of Regina’s 6,000-seat Brandt Centre, one day prior to practice this week at the Langley Events Centre. “When the Pats won the semifinal, that was the loudest building that I’d ever been in.
“I can’t wait to experience something like that here. That’s the goal, to go on a run. There’s nothing like a playoff run. Seeing that at that age — I obviously knew that I wanted to play in the WHL then, but that shows you how fun it can be and how the fans can get behind you. That energy was another level.”
Mirwald is going to get a chance to be a major player in whatever success the Giants have this season. The Vancouver brass haven’t officially named him the starter yet, but that’s certainly the buzz around training camp.
He was the back-up last year to Jesper Vikman with Vancouver and showed well, with a 9-9-4-1 record, a 3.15 goals against average, and a .910 save percentage. Included in that was a 51-save outing in a 4-2 loss to the Kamloops Blazers on Feb. 4.
Vikman, who aged out of the WHL at the end of the season and is going to play somewhere in the Vegas Golden Knights system this year, was 19-21-1-2, with a 3.29 goals against average and a .903 save percentage to offer up some comparison.
Mirwald is one of five 20 year olds remaining with Vancouver. They can only keep three overages on their final roster. Mirwald’s also one of three goalies left in camp, along with Matthew Hutchison, who turns 17 in three weeks, and Burke Hood, 16.
Vancouver wraps up its preseason schedule this weekend, visiting the Kelowna Rockets on Friday and then hosting the Kamloops Blazers in Maple Ridge on Saturday. The regular season begins Sept. 22, with the Giants hosting the Victoria Royals at the Langley Events Centre.
“I think I need to be steady. That’s the big one,” said Mirwald, who celebrated his birthday Wednesday. “Being a 20, I’m obviously hope to play a good number of minutes and just be a steady rock in the back. If our guys have a slow start, I want to give them a chance to get their feet under them, and especially our young guys.
“There’s pressure as a 20. Every 20 has pressure, and especially as a goalie because you’re taking up a spot even on nights you’re not playing. There are expectations as a 20, and the goalie can help carry the team and handle a heavy load.”
There has been an expectation of goaltenders in Vancouver in general, as well. The Giants’ last three starters are David Tendeck (2018, sixth round, Arizona Coyotes) and Trent Miner (2019, seventh round, Colorado Avalanche), who became just the second and third goalies picked in an NHL Draft directly off of the Giants’ roster in the franchise’s 22-year history, and Vikman (2020, fifth round, Vegas), the Swede who had already been drafted by the Golden Knights when he signed on with Vancouver.
“If I play my game, I think I can be up there with those guys,” Mirwald said. “That’s the goal — by the end of this year, people have respect for my name.”
Mirwald checks in at 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds. He played multiple sports growing up, and Giants goalie coach Paul Fricker believes that he has helped Mirwald along the way, like with his baseball time improving his glove hand.
Mirwald was originally in the WHL with the Moose Jaw Warriors, but only saw 19 games over two years and wound up for a stint in the Manitoba Junior A league with the Waywayseecappo Wolverines. Vancouver landed his rights two summers ago, in exchange for a conditional sixth-round pick in the 2026 WHL Draft.
“I’m proud of myself to get back to the league. It’s where I wanted to be,” Mirwald said. “Getting the full-time starter is later than I wanted, but I’m going to take the opportunity and try to run with it.”
Tyson Sexsmith, who backstopped the Giants to the 2007 Memorial Cup title, was the first netminder drafted to the NHL directly off a Vancouver roster when he was picked in the 2007 third round by the San Jose Sharks. Other Giants goalies, such as Marek Schwarz and Adam Morrison, were selected by NHL clubs prior to joining Vancouver.
Leschyshyn, now 24, is a centre with the New York Rangers.
Bookmark our website and support our journalism: Don’t miss the news you need to know — add VancouverSun.com and TheProvince.com to your bookmarks and sign up for our newsletters here.
You can also support our journalism by becoming a digital subscriber: For just $14 a month, you can get unlimited, ad-lite get unlimited, ad-lite access to The Vancouver Sun, The Province, National Post and 13 other Canadian news sites. Support us by subscribing today: The Vancouver Sun | The Province.