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Monday, Jun. 18, 2018
NOSSA and NOCA curling highlights
2018-03-03
by Randy Pascal

Given just how many top end competitions have recently taken place on the ice, it seems like a bit of a surprise to think that the 2017-2018 curling season is truthfully only slightly more than 50% completed.

But take a moment to look at simply the playdowns held this past week and in the week ahead, and it’s clear that there are still several divisions that will be either crowning champions throughout the month of March, or doling out the berths for nationals being staged this month and next.

The folks involved with the high school curling may have seen their schedules squeezed thanks to back to back snow days last week, but that did not stop the Lockerby Vikings' girls (Sydnie Stinson, Jessica Leonard, Abby Deschene, Elizabeth Huska) from claiming a second straight NOSSA banner.

Directly on the heels of knocking off the Marymount Regals 7-2 in the city final on Monday, the Vikes were on the road to Blind River, kicking off the Northern Ontario championships the very next morning.

“We didn’t really know what to expect as much with NOSSA, because a lot of the girls from last year that we knew had graduated,” conceded Leonard, who serves as vice and also joins Stinson and Deschene on a U18 rink that will also compete next week at provincials in New Liskeard.

Posting a record of 2-0 on day one, the Lockerby foursome kept right on rolling the next morning, remaining undefeated with a convincing win over Ecole Secondaire Catholique Elisabeth-Bruyère (Mattawa). The only setback of the tournament came in game four, as the Vikings fell to host W.C Eaket.

“We were a little bit out of focus that game,” said Leonard. “We ended up losing, but because we had no losses, it was good since this was a double knockout format. We just refocused our energy into the next game.”

Fortunately, that allowed the Sudbury reps to await the winner of an Eaket vs Elisabeth-Bruyère matchup, with Lockerby eventually earning a trip to Fort Frances for OFSAA from March 20th to the 24th. They will be joined there by the familiar face of Kate Sherry (a regular with their junior team), who helped lead the Widdifield Wildcats’ boys to a NOSSA banner of their own in Blind River.

Yesterday would also see the kickoff of the Ontario Winter Games schedules, with plenty of local representation in the mix. The U17 boys event features the Idylwylde Golf & Country Club rink of Samuel Branconnier, Nathan Leonard, Patrik Labrosse and James McVittie, while their club-mate quartet of Bella Croisier, Jamie Smith, Piper Croisier and Lauren Rajala is sure to challenge on the girls side of the draw.

The 2018 OWG also introduces the U21 mixed doubles curling competition for the very first time, with a couple of interesting local connections. Kira Brunton and Jacob Horgan have combined forces to enter a team that, on paper, would seem to surely be a contender for gold.

Meanwhile, Horgan’s long-time junior teammate, Maxime Blais, from Smooth Rock Falls, has teamed with fellow Laurentian University student, Alyssa Denyer of Minden, to give it their best shot in a sporting endeavour that is only just beginning to gain a foothold in the curling community.

A pair of local rinks qualified mid February for the upcoming Travelers Curling Club Championship Provincials in Sault Ste Marie (March 22nd – 25th), with both teams running the table in round robin play.

The Curl Sudbury crew of Janice Vettoretti, Jessica Orford, Jill Dutrisac and Deb Beitschat posted a 4-0 record in Coniston, downing, in succession, Karen Pigeau of Sturgeon Falls (8-2), Meri Bolander from Copper Cliff (7-5), Carole Paquette from Capreol (9-1) and Louise Logan of the Idylwylde (8-5).

It was a somewhat similar story on the men’s side as skip Jason Strelezki and his Copper Cliff contingent of Chris Gordon, Rob Shalla and Derek Crew emerged on Monday morning of Family Day weekend, boasting a flawless mark of 5-0.

While that string included victories over Serge Palin of North Bay (5-3), Jeff Currie of Coniston (8-4), Devon Parry from Curl Sudbury (7-5), Greg Blanchette of Capreol (7-1) and Patrick Chartier of the Idylwylde (6-3), it was the Strelezki v Parry encounter that ultimately decided this bonspiel.

Parry and company would finish the event at 4-1, their only defeat an extra end loss at the hands of the eventual tournament champs. Finally, the U18 Boys & Girls NOCA Provincial field was recently rounded out as the “second chance” group gathered in Timmins for the East Qualifier.

In what certainly did not constitute a great surprise, the local entries of the Croisier squad currently competing at the Ontario Winter Games, as well as the Curl Sudbury collection of Jacob Horgan, Max Cull, Nicholas Bissonnette and Shane Robinson both made their way through, unscathed, earning the right to go toe to toe with the previous regional winners beginning next Wednesday at the Horne Granite Curling Club in New Liskeard.

And we would be remiss if we were not to wish Tanner Horgan the best of luck and a truly enjoyable experience as he attends the 2018 Tim Horton’s Brier starting today in Regina. The long-time junior curling phenom was picked up by the Brad Jacobs rink from Sault Ste Marie to serve as an alternate for the former Olympic gold medal winning crew.

While he may or may not see game action in Saskatchewan – probably more likely than not the latter – the experience alone for a young man who one can easily see following in the accomplished footsteps of Jacobs in years to come is likely invaluable to his overall curling development.

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