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Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017
Pre-trials in P.E.I. with a pair of spots on the line
2017-11-03
by Randy Pascal

It’s last chance time for a handful of local women still searching for the opportunity to represent Canada, in curling, at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeonchang, South Korea.

Beginning November 6th in Summerside (Prince Edward Island), a total of 24 men’s and women’s teams will gather at Credit Union Place, with a pair of coveted berth in each gender on the line.

The top two teams on each side will round out the field for the Tim Horton’s Roar of the Rings Canadian Curling Trials, set for December 2nd to the 10th in Ottawa. At the end of the day, this all means that a group that includes Tracy Fleury, Crystal Webster, Jenna Walsh, Amanda Gates, Jennifer Wylie and Kendra Lilly still have their work cut out for them.

Now entering her third season as vice of the Krista McCarville rink from Thunder Bay, Lilly and her mates enter the competition with the comfort that comes from having advanced to a Scotties Tournament of Hearts final as recently as February of 2016.

“We know that if we go in and play like we can, we know we have a very good shot at putting ourselves in the position to make the playoffs and go from there,” said Lilly. “I think we are at a point now where we know that we are good technically, throwing-wise, so we’re just trying to find as many little things as we can to improve.”

“We’re looking at our sweeping, our nutrition, anything that we can do that can help us perform better on the ice. It’s mostly fine-tuning.” The Fleury and McCarville rinks are in opposite pools of seven, with the top three teams in each bracket moving on to a playoff round.

Team Fleury will open play on Monday at 8:00 p.m., facing the Theresa Breen foursome from Halifax, while McCarville meets up with Darcy Robertson and her quartet from Winnipeg first thing Tuesday morning.

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A pair of local junior teams continue to rank among the very best in the province as the 2017 BrokerLink OVA U21 Junior Superspiel in Ottawa last weekend would see both Team Smith/Brunton and the Tanner Horgan rink enjoy a varied degree of success.

The ladies, who will henceforth be known as Team Brunton (officially), earned a spot in the four team playoff round as the “B” qualifier, and proceeded to oust Emma Wallingford of Ottawa 8-3, before dropping the final to Kaitlyn Jones of Halifax by a final count of 7-2.

Welcoming two new members to the U21 NOCA women’s championship team that graduated both Krysta Burns and Laura Masters, the new grouping of Megan Smith, Kira Brunton, Sara Guy and Kate Sherry spent the early stages of the 2017-2018 coming to grips with the exact lineup that is likely to compete most successfully against the elite in the junior women’s field, both provincially and nationally.

The end product finds Brunton at skip and Smith at vice, with Guy (second) and Sherry (lead) rounding out the front end. “I like throwing last rock, I like having pressure on me when I’m playing,” admitted Brunton earlier this week. “I think the part that Megan really helps me with is that when I call a game, I play it very aggressively, so sometimes we get out of control.”

“We’re a good pair in that we think in different ways, so we can bring different things to the table. She brings me back down,” Brunton laughed. “She’ll take me away from the triple for four, because that’s what I’ll usually call.”

Skip of the Northern Ontario U18 team that claimed the very first national crown at this level last spring (along with Sherry, Sydnie Stinson and Jessica Leonard), the first year Laurentian University student has adjusted nicely to a slightly different skill set in assessing her new team this fall.

“The strategy is pretty similar,” she said. “The girls this year are really good hitters, so we have the advantage of being able to play the game super clean when we get up. It’s nice to have the heavy weight shots that we can play this year.”

Already quite familiar with one another simply by virtue of the nature of youth curling in Northern Ontario, Brunton and company are anxious to send yet another local rink to the Canadian Junior Curling Championships.

“We gelled together really fast,” she said. “The first couple of tournaments, it was difficult to get our feet under us, because we hadn’t had any ice time yet. As soon as we started to play league games together, everything kind of happened really fast. I think our biggest advantage is actually just being super positive with each other.”

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That same sense of “team” also rings through, loud and clear, in chatting with skip Mark Robinson regarding the U21 team that he has assembled this year that includes Max Cull (third), Shane Robinson (second) and newcomer Mark D’Arcangelo (lead). “We are not only teammates, we are like family to one another,” noted the Robinson sibling entrusted with throwing final stones.

“When we are not at the rink, we will often be hanging out, having a great time together. I think this positivity is really helping us, early in the season.” With their sights also set on Junior Nationals, and altering their schedule from 2016-2017 to include far more practice time together and far fewer tour events, the Curl Sudbury crew will compete in their only tour event of this season this weekend.

Team Robinson will enjoy five round robin games spread out between Friday and Saturday as they take part in the 2017 KW Junior Curling Classic. The opposition will include a match-up with the defending national silver medal winning team from Ontario, skipped by Matthew Hall.

Science North
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