Koltun teams begin ambitious season

Whitehorse’s Team Koltun is gearing up to make this curling season its most industrious. It’s a tall order for a team that placed fourth at a national championship last season.

Whitehorse’s Team Koltun is gearing up to make this curling season its most industrious.

It’s a tall order for a team that placed fourth at a national championship last season.

This season the workload is going to be split up a little bit. Skip Sarah Koltun is captaining two rinks – a junior team and a women’s team.

Koltun is joined by third/lead Andrea Sinclair and second Patty Wallingham while Duncan sisters Jenna and Chelsea are sharing the remaining spot.

Jenna is lead on the junior team and Chelsea, who aged out of junior last season, plays third for the women’s team as Sinclair moves from third to lead.

“We definitely have high hopes for the season, seeing how well we did last year and knowing we got a replacement for Chelsea with a really high skill level, and she wants to succeed as much as we do,” said Koltun of

Sinclair. “So the transition has been really good and we hope the rest of the season goes just as well.”

Last season Koltun and Chelsea made their seventh trip to the Canadian Junior Curling Championships, taking fourth. Koltun hopes to make her eighth and final appearance at the junior nationals this season.

Her women’s team will attempt to capture the Yukon/N.W.T. spot at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts – the Canadian women’s championship – in January. If successful, Team Koltun will be the first Yukon rink to compete at the Scotties since Whitehorse’s Team Hatton in 2000. (A Yukon team hasn’t reached the Brier men’s championships since 2008. Last year no Yukon teams signed up to compete for the Yukon/N.W.T.’s spot at the Scotties or Brier.)

“We are hoping to make it to the Yukon-N.W.T. playdown for the Scotties,” said Koltun. “Yukon hasn’t had a team in that for so long that we’re hoping to fill that void. We’ve had a fair amount of experience on the junior side and hopefully that can help us as we transition into women’s.”

“Chelsea’s too old now (for juniors), so we needed to find someone else to play,” said coach Lindsay Moldowan. “We wanted to keep curling with Chelsea, obviously, because we’ve been with her since the start and she is a very important part of our team. Her, Sarah and Patty are now old enough to try out for the Scotties, so going forward we were like, we can do both with Andrea joining the team, so why wouldn’t we?”

Both Koltun teams have their first bonspiel of the season under their belt.

This past weekend the junior team competed at the Kamloops Crown of Curling, a Women’s World Curling Tour event in B.C. Last year the Team Koltun went 5-2 at the bonspiel and placed third. This year they were held to one win.

“It was a really good bonspiel. We really like coming down here to Kamloops,” said Koltun. “Last year we had a really good spiel when we were here. This year our first three games were really good, and the two that we lost of those first three were really close and we were tied going into the final end. We didn’t have the hammer and weren’t able to generate the steal. Sometimes that happens, so we couldn’t really be upset with those games.

“Our last one, we definitely did not play our best game, which was kind of unfortunate. We can only learn from it and move on.”

Team Koltun lost 7-3 to B.C.’s Team MacInnes before a 7-2 win over B.C.’s Team Tinkler. They were then eliminated in the triple-knockout spiel with a 6-5 loss in an extra end to B.C.’s Team Knezevic followed by a 7-2 loss to B.C.’s Team Richter.

The Koltun women’s team competed at the Shoot-Out at the Saville Centre in Edmonton the previous weekend.

The Koltun squad won their season opener 6-3 over Saskatchewan’s Team Lawton, who won the event in 2011. The Lawton rink is currently the top ranked women’s team in the country.

“We won our first game against Stephanie Lawton, who is in the Olympic trials, and then we lost the next three,” said Koltun. “They were decent games, but we had only been on the ice for a couple days before the tournament.

“We were pretty happy with it. We were trying to figure out our new systems, with a new player and a new team, just trying to make things work. We were happy with how it turned out.”

Both bonspiels were Sinclair’s first on Team Koltun, having joined the teams during the offseason. The Ottawa native won bronze with her Ontario team at the 2011 Canada Winter Games in Halifax.

“I had a pretty rough season last year in Ontario and I wanted to be quite competitive this year because I’m not in school and not doing much that required me to stay in Ottawa,” said Sinclair. “So I was thinking, I may as well go for it in my last year in junior. So my dad and I were talking about where I can go – who would need a player – and we saw (Team Koltun) at the 2011 Canada Games in Halifax.”

“Things are going really well,” she added. “It’s definitely different going from lead to third, but there’s such a good team structure here, it’s easy to jump from position to position because all the support is there.”

With the exception of Chelsea, all the Team Koltun members are taking the year off school to focus on curling in events across the country.

They will compete in Lloydminster, Alta. this week and in Ottawa the following weekend.

“They’ve given up a year of university to curl, so they’re going to be all over the country attending numerous spiels,” said Moldowan. “So they’ll be busy.”

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com