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Monday, Oct. 16, 2017
A first ever Canadian Masters Curling crown for the NOCA
2017-04-15
by Randy Pascal

Sudbury will be able to boast of another national curling champion after all.

Following in the footsteps of the Laurentian Voyageurs women’s team which walked away with their first ever “U Sports” banner last month, the Northern Ontario men’s team emerged as gold medal winners, last week, at the 2017 Hy-Grade Steel Roofing Canadian Masters Curling Championships in Guelph.

Led by Canadian curling icon Al Hackner at skip, the rink representing the Community First Curling Club in Sault Ste Marie also featured Eric Harnden at vice, Frank Morissette at second, and long-time Idylwylde Golf & Country Club member Bruce Munro at lead.

The NOCA champs established themselves as a force to be reckoned with from start to finish, posting a record of 5-1 in round robin play, and securing the Pool “B” lead at the mid-point, tied with Jim Wilson of Saskatchewan.

They virtually duplicated that mark in the second half of the week, winning three of their final four games as Northern Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta (Fred Armstrong) continued to share top spot at 8-2.

Hackner and Wilson would meet again in semi-final play, based on the tie-breakers, as the “Iceman” and company scored three in the first and never looked back, securing a berth in the final with a 6-3 win.

The final, however, would come right down to the final stone, as Northern Ontario and Alberta were tied 5-5 after seven ends. Enjoying last rock advantage would give Hackner all of the opening he would need, scoring two for the win and the national crown.

This marks the first time that Northern Ontario has claimed the Canadian Masters since the national bonspiel was created back in 2000.

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The Hackner quartet entered Canadians as a legitimate contender. By contrast, the Sturgeon Falls duo of Karen and Dean Pigeau were under absolutely no false sense of illusions, having garnered the Northern Ontario Mixed Doubles crown on their home ice several weeks ago.

In fact, they had absolutely no reservations about the fact that the 2017 Canadian Mixed Doubles Curling Championships in Saskatoon was all about the experience, a chance to share the ice with some of the all-time greats of the Canadian curling scene.

They were not about to sweat an 0-7 record in Pool “D” play, not with losses against the likes of Jennifer Jones/Brent Laing and Dawn/Mike McEwen. Looking across to the remaining three pools, the Pigeaus would rub elbows with the likes of Rachel Homan, John Morris, Jill Officer, Reid Carruthers, Ryan Fry and John Epping>, a veritable “who’s who” of curlers that can be seen regularly on the various sports networks, competing at Grand Slam events throughout the winter.

The field also included Timmins native and former Laurentian University curler Tyler Stewart, who teamed up with his wife, Nicole Westlund-Stewart, securing their spot by virtue of placing 13th in the Canadian Mixed Doubles Rankings.

In the end, the team of Joanne Courtney and Reid Carruthers would claim gold, downing Rachel Homan and John Morris 9-6 in the final.

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Ironically, many of these same top-end competitors are back on display this week, competing at the 2017 West Jet Players Championship at the Mattamy Athletic Centre in Toronto, with a berth at Olympic Trials potentially on the line.

Lots of local interest, as the Tracy Fleury rink of Crystal Webster, Jennifer Wylie and Amanda Gates is not only taking part, but right in the thick of things in the early going. Team Fleury are deadlocked with Val Sweeting with a record of 4-1, showing the way in Pool “B”, as the event features an even dozen teams of both sexes, broken down into four pools of six.

The Idylwylde Golf & Country Club representatives bolted from the starting blocks, scoring three in the very first end of their very first game on Wednesday morning, beating Anna Hasselborg of Sweden 7-4.

The team continued to roll later that afternoon, defeating Manitoban Michelle Englot 5-1, scoring two with the hammer in both the third and sixth ends, and adding a steal of one in the seventh.

Right back at it on Thursday morning, the locals went shot for shot with Jennifer Jones, surrendering a deuce in the final end and falling just short with a 6-5 loss. Undaunted, the Fleury foursome used a steal of two in the fifth end and another steal of one in the sixth en route to a 6-4 triumph over Eve Muirhead of Scotland.

Looking for a win against the unbeaten Val Sweeting rink in order to possibly secure the top seed heading into the quarter-finals on Saturday evening, the Fleury rink came through with perhaps their strongest showing yet, dominating early and leveraging a 4-0 lead after three ends into a 6-2 win.

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Making a re-appearance following a six year hiatus, the Sudbury Youth Curling League recently wrapped up their 2016-2017 season at the Idylwyde. With ten teams taking part this year, the loop that is sponsored by the Sudbury Lions Club encompasses primarily elementary level students, aged nine to fourteen.

Coaches are allowed on the ice, during the games, providing valuable instruction to both teams. The championship final would see Team Smith (Idylwylde) down Team Toner (Sudbury) in the gold medal game, while Team Montgomery (Idylwylde) defeated Team Thom (Copper Cliff) in the bronze medal affair.

According to organizer Shawn Croisier, plans for the 2017-2018 campaign include targetting an increase in the number of teams, bumping from ten to sixteen (ideally), while also moving the games around to come of the various local clubs.

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Finally, all Sudbury curling eyes later this week will be fixated on the 2017 Canadian U18 Curling Championships in Moncton, with local representation on both sides of the draw for Northern Ontario.

The Sudbury Curling Club boys team of Jacob Horgan, Max Cull, Nicholas Bissonnette and Shane Robinson will begin play on Tuesday in a pool that also includes Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.

Also representing the Sudbury Curling Club, the quartet of Kira Brunton, Kate Sherry, Sydnie Stinson and Jessica Leonard have drawn Alberta, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland, with both teams looking to secure a top three placement in order to move on to the championship playoff round.

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