It was sweet, sweet payback, and good timing, for the Yukon boys’ curling team when it finally beat Alberta North at the Yellowknife curling club on Friday in the gold medal match.
Alberta was the thorn in Yukon’s side during the weeklong tournament — the only losses in its 5-2 record.
It lost to Alberta 8-3 during the round robin, and again in the playoff round 6-5.
When it met in the final, it was a different story.
Yukon capitalized in the sixth end by stealing five points when Alberta North had the hammer. They went on to beat Alberta 11-6 to win the gold.
“We just came back really well, we knew we could beat them,” said Yukon skip Thomas Scoffin after the match.
The rivalry goes back even further for Scoffin’s rink, including third Will Mahoney, second Nick Koltun and lead Mitch Young.
At the last Arctic Winter Games in Kenai, Alaska, Scoffin and his crew lost the gold to Alberta North by a single rock in the final end.
Although it’s a completely different team this year, putting the rocks to Alberta North was the icing on the cake for the Yukon boys.
“It feels really good this time,” said Scoffin. “Winning silver was huge for us, so this time gold is even better.”
“It was a pretty convincing win — a steal of five is hard to overcome for the other team,” said coach Ron Koltun.
“Our boys have been improving every game, they really wanted this.”
Coach Koltun said the team was consistent all the way through the tournament, with only a few missed shots in the losses against Alberta.
“Shots are missed, even by the pros, and recovering from them is the way to win,” he said. “It takes experience. They work on the mental aspects of the game, as well as the technical — they’ve worked really hard for this, and I’m proud of them.”
After the match, Scoffin called his dad, Wade Scoffin who was in Winnipeg, curling at the Tim Horton’s Brier with Chad Cowan’s rink.
Wade Scoffin was the team’s original coach, but Koltun took over because of the scheduling conflict.
“I just phoned him, he’s pretty happy about it,” said Scoffin. The son seems to have outplayed the father, as Cowan’s rink was eliminated before the playoff round.
“He’s done, but they won two games,” said Scoffin. “They beat Quebec, who were former world champions, and Northern Ontario, also a great team.”
When asked if he’d like to follow his dad to the Brier, Scoffin replied, “I haven’t thought about that yet, I’m only 13,” he said. “I totally want to, but I’ll take it year by year.”
While the boys celebrated their gold ulu win, the Yukon girls’ team remained on the ice, struggling to claw their way back from a 10-6 deficit in the eighth end in their gold ulu match, also against Alberta North.
They took two points in the ninth.
In the tenth, Sarah Koltun’s well-placed final shots left Alberta skip Jaclyn Huitt with a serious high-pressure shot.
“She had to make her last shot, because we were sitting three,” said Yukon lead Tessa Vibe. “She ended up knocking one out, and winning.”
Although they didn’t win it, the Yukon girls were pleased with the result.
“Our plan was to medal, so after yesterday’s game, this was good,” said Koltun. “I think we curled well — we had a five-game winning streak, this last game was just kind of rough.”
The only other loss for Yukon was the opening match of the tournament, also against Alberta North.
“In that game the power kept going out, so each time that happened, we had to replay the end,” said Koltun. “When the power went out, the thing that keeps the ice cold turned off, so the ice was curling like crazy, and it was way different.”
“It was the longest game we’ve ever played, definitely,” said third Chelsea Duncan.
Winning silver is a welcome change from playing in bonspiels where the junior girls are vastly outranked, like the national championships.
“This was a lot nicer, because the teams are more our level, and our age; it was a nice break,” said Duncan.
“We came close to a lot of really good teams, like Saskatchewan and Manitoba — we didn’t win any games, unfortunately,” said Vibe. “It helps you with pressure shots, and feeling more comfortable and more experienced.”
“You just learn from those top-notch teams, and every time you get better and better,” said Duncan.