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Rayside-Balfour Canadians
Friday, Aug. 18, 2017
Both Northern Ontario teams to play for medals
2017-04-22
by Randy Pascal

Step one is safely out of the way for the Kira Brunton rink representing Northern Ontario at the Canadian U18 Curling Championships. For Jake Horgan and the boys, however, it’s going to come right down to the 12th and final draw late Friday evening.

Both teams representing the Sudbury Curling Club are hoping to secure one of the four spots up for grabs in the Saturday semi-finals, as things wind down at the inaugural formalized national championship for this particular age bracket.

Curling with the trio of Kate Sherry (third), Sydnie Stinson (second) and Jessica Leonard (lead), Brunton and crew have remained right in the thick of the hunt from the very outset of the competition.

Team Brunton stormed back from an early deficit in their opener against Alberta (Abby Marks), scoring two in the fourth and adding three more in the eighth in chalking up a 7-4 victory. The girls then doubled Saskatchewan (Rachel Erickson) 6-3 in game two, and were not the least bit outclassed in their only pool play loss, a 7-6 extra end setback at the hands of Kayla Gray from Ontario.

Right back on the winning track in Draw 5 as Northern Ontario spots Manitoba (Mackenzie Zacharias) an early 3-0 lead, but rebounds with two in the third and steals in the fourth, fifth and seventh ends, emerging triumphant 6-3.

The local quartet pulled into a first place Pool “A” tie with Alberta at 4-1, thanks to an 11-3 shellacking of the Newfoundland & Labrador reps (Mackenzie Glynn). That mark allowed the NOCA champs a little wiggle room, as they opened Championship Pool play with a 6-2 loss to Quebec (Gabrielle Lavoie).

The key matchup to date came in Draw 10 as Northern Ontario edged Nova Scotia (Cally Moore) 5-4 on Friday morning, scoring one with the hammer in the eighth and final end. While the team still had to face frontrunner and hometown favourite Justine Comeau of New Brunswick in their final game in the re-sorted bracket, Brunton and company did so knowing that win or lose, they will advance to the Saturday semis and a chance to play for a medal later that day.

Not quite the same piece of mind for Horgan, Max Cull, Nicholas Bissonnette and Shane Robinson, who will need a win over Quebec (Gregory Cheal) in order to ensure they follow in the footsteps of their female counterparts.

Things did not start nearly as well for the lads in Moncton, bounced unceremoniously 7-0 by Nova Scotia (Ryan Abraham) in their very first game. In fact, the Horgan troops did not even score their first point of the week until the fifth end of their second game, narrowing the deficit with Saskatchewan (Ryan Kleiter) to 3-2 at the time.

That breakthrough, however, appeared to spark the northern foursome, who went on to even their record at 1-1 with a 5-3 win, and them dominated Newfoundland & Labrador (Andrew Lawrence) to the tune of 7-1 in Draw #5.

Now on a roll, the Sudbury Curling Club representatives improved to 3-1 with a 6-1 win over Prince Edward Island (Donald DeWolfe), as the team picked up four key steals over the two game stretch.

A 9-3 loss to Manitoba (Brett Walter) might appear concerning, at a glance, until one realizes that Team Horgan were up 3-2 after six, gave up three in the seventh to trail by two, and allowed Manitoba a four point end in the eighth, while trying to pull out all stops to grab the deuce they needed.

The boys would start Championship Pool play with slightly more ground to make up than would Team Brunton, as their record of 3-2 left them tied for second with Nova Scotia, one game back of Saskatchewan.

Throw in a 5-3 loss on Thursday to the Hazen Enman Ontario rink, and one could safely assume that it was do or die time for the young men donning the NOCA colours. By far their biggest win of the week came early on Friday, as Horgan and mates overcome a 4-3 deficit after four, scoring three in the fifth and adding a steal in the sixth en route to a huge 7-5 win over the previously unbeaten Tyler Tardi rink from British Columbia.

And so it comes down to “win and you’re in” time for the locals, as they hit the ice late Friday versus La Belle Province.

Northern Ontario did in fact beat Quebec in the final draw on Friday, and have moved on to play in the Saturday semi-finals.

******************************************************************************

A 6-5 quarter-final loss to Anna Hasselborg of Sweden was not the wrap to the 2017 Westjet Players’ Championship that the Idylwylde rink of Tracy Fleury, Crystal Webster, Jennifer Wylie and Amanda Gates were hoping for last weekend in Toronto.

Still, their 4-1 round robin record that would see the team topping all entries and earning the top seed heading into the playoff round would suggest that the locals might have well been playing as well as they had all year.

It was not a assessment that Fleury would dispute.

“We found over the past couple of months that we haven’t really been competing a whole lot, so we’ve been focusing on our practicing, and we think that this really has helped us a lot,” said Fleury. “We feel that we are playing better in this event than some earlier ones, and that we’re just more consistent.”

“We had a chance to work on some technical things that we were maybe struggling with earlier in the season,” Fleury added. “Our season was so busy this year, we were travelling a lot, on the road a lot. For this one, we were more rested.”

And while the quarter finalist prize purse of $12,000 was something of a consolation for the ladies, it really wasn’t necessarily the money that topped the potential benefits from the Players Championship for Fleury and company.

“There’s pretty much just one spot left for the Olympic Trials, and there’s a couple of ways we could get it,” explained Fleury. “If we win this event, certainly, but there’s also a couple of teams that could help us out.”

Science North
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