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Monday, Nov. 20, 2017
Local curlers hit the ice - Team Horgan on a roll
2017-09-08
by Randy Pascal

There’s nothing better than kicking off the Sudbury curling scene with a bang, welcoming a new season with a result to crow about.

Competing in a 24 team men’s event last weekend, the Northern Ontario junior team of Tanner Horgan, Jacob Horgan, Nicholas Bissonnette and Maxime Blais battled their way through to the semi-finals before falling to bonspiel champion Bruce Mouat of Scotland, 6-5.

The local crew opened the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard with victories over both SooHyuk Kim of Korea (4-2) and Heath McCormick of Minnesota (6-3), but found themselves bumped down to the “C” bracket after falling to Mouat, for the first time (7-6), and to Kyle Smith of Scotland (7-2).

Faced with the “win or leave” option, Team Horgan opted to spend another few days in Southern Ontario, posting three straight wins on Sunday. The two-time medal winners at the Canadian Junior Men’s Championships would dismiss Todd Birr (Minnesota – 5-3), Brady Clark (Seattle, Washington – 7-2) and Pat Simmonds (Manitoba – 3-2) in one of the most productive days of their young curling careers.

The triumph over Simmonds, the Brier champion in both 2014 and 2015, came in the quarter-finals, with the Horgan rink knocking off a “B” qualifier who advanced to the playoffs with a record of 4-1.

“We really exceeded expectations at this event,” noted Horgan, as his squad opted to remain in Oakville this week, with the quartet participating in the Oakville OCT Fall Classic this coming weekend. “The goal, going in, was maybe to make quarters, win our money back. We knew it was a really tough field, and we were ranked 15th or 16th.”

There is certainly no denying that Horgan and company have enjoyed substantial success over the course of the past few years. But with every passing accomplishment comes the need to raise the bar just a little bit more, with the skip noting some early season differences with his teenage grouping this fall.

“I think we exceeded our expectations, in part, because we didn’t know how good we were,” said Horgan. “We’ve never qualified at an event like this before. We lost that third game, but when we came off, we felt that maybe this is the new “us”, playing at this level now.” And while that might sound like these lads run the risk of not remaining grounded, nothing could be further from the truth.

“There is a little bit of a different attitude right now on the team,” acknowledged Horgan. “Last year, we got caught focusing a little too much on the results, the be all and end all being about winning nationals. This year, everyone seems to be playing a little bit looser, just focusing on hitting the broom, and the wins are taking care of themselves.”

“We’ve had a lot of good talks with high level coaches this summer, and it’s less about the technical and more about the process. Let’s just try and play that well again, and the rest will take care of itself.”

In-game adjustments have been evident, as well, with the 19 year-old Laurentian University student. “Maybe in the past, when we got down a couple of points, it was really hard to get back,” he said. “We’ve noticed that we’ve been scoring a lot of deuces or threes right after giving up a deuce or three. We’ve been doing a really good job of bouncing back.”

In the end, given the skill that is already present and has been demonstrated time and time again, it comes as little surprise that the fine-tuning occurs in other facets, and in relatively small increments. “I don’t think our technical part of the game has improved as much as maybe what our performance has shown, but definitely the mental part of the game,” said Horgan.

“You don’t really know how much you can focus until you are focusing at that next level, being in the zone for the whole game. In curling, you don’t need a lot of momentum. You really just want to be in our own zone, keep the same level, and I think this is what we’re doing so well this year.”

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Also kicking things off this week, but really struggling to find their game in the early going is the Tracy Fleury women’s rink, part of the 15-team field at the Grand Slam of Curling Tour Challenge in Regina.

The foursome, which also includes Crystal Webster, Jenna Walsh and Amanda GatesJennifer Wylie is currently away from the team, soon expecting the birth of her and her husband’s first child – have yet to hit the win column in three attempts.

Team Fleury were doubled 6-3 by Julie Tippin out of the gate, dropped a tough 8-7 decision to Anna Hasselborg in the fifth draw, and were completely out of synch against Michelle Englot, blanked 8-0 in a contest that would see the teams shake hands after five ends.

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Though Sudbury curling facilities, more often than not, are welcoming competitive curling for the first time each fall in and around early to mid-October, this year is different – very different. On the weekend of September 29th through to October 1st, the Idylwylde Golf & Country Club will play host to the U18 Atlas Slam.

One of seven stop in this age bracket in the Junior Slam Series, the local bonspiel will feature up to a maximum of 30 teams, split evenly between male and female competitors. That contingent is expected to include a healthy dose of local talent, as Sudbury and area curlers enjoy that rare opportunity of facing some of the very best in the province, right in their own backyard.

Science North
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