It’s been almost a decade since a Yukon rink has competed in the main draw of the Tim Hortons Brier and that isn’t going to change this week.
Team Yukon was expelled from the national men’s championship with a loss to Nova Scotia in the pre-qualifier on March 4 in St. John’s, N.L.
“We accomplished a couple of goals we set out to accomplish this year, so we’re focusing on that part of things,” said Yukon skip Jon Solberg. “It’s disheartening to not have made it in for sure. It was stinging a little more last night than it is today. At the same time we certainly respect and appreciate the opportunity to have gotten to here.
“One of our goals was to get into the play-in game on Saturday afternoon and we accomplished that.”
Team Yukon opened the pre-qualifier with an 8-2 loss to Nova Scotia, led by skip Jamie Murphy. The Whitehorse rink then downed P.E.I. 12-7 and Nunavut 10-1 to reach the play-in game, the winner of which advances into the main draw.
However, Nova Scotia took the rematch 9-6, ending Yukon’s run.
Nova Scotia scored three in the third end and three in the seventh end for a 9-3 lead. Team Yukon, which includes third Craig Kochan, second Ray Mikkelsen, lead Darrin Fredrickson and fifth Wade Scoffin, scored two in the eighth and one in the ninth before shaking hands.
Nova Scotia went on to win their first two games in the main draw, downing powerhouses Ontario and Alberta, before a loss to Quebec.
“It was definitely our closest game. Having said that, I’m the first one to admit they were the better team last night,” said Solberg. “They’ve got a very strong team and we just weren’t at our sharpest last night, and that was the difference.”
St. John’s was Solberg’s fifth Brier, but his first as skip of a Yukon team since 2002 — a team that also included Mikkelsen and Scoffin.
“I’m happy to have come to St. John’s, Newfoundland, to one of the best Briers the CCA (Curling Canada) has put on yet,” said Solberg. “The Newfoundland folks are so friendly and they’ve come out in groves as volunteers to put this thing on and they’ve done a fantastic job.”
It was a similar story for Yukon at this year’s Scotties Tournament of Hearts, the women’s curling nationals in St. Catharines, Ont., last month. Team Koltun, with skip Sarah Koltun, was booted from the pre-qualifier with losses to New Brunswick and N.W.T.
Yukon will be represented in the main draw of the Brier and Scotties next year when every province and territory will have direct entry to both championships, thanks to a change in format decided in Curling Canada’s 2015 annual general meeting.
“We’ve got some wonderful curlers and some terrific teams up in the Yukon and any one of them would have represented us well at this event,” said Solberg. “We’re very fortunate to be the one to do it this year, so we’re happy about that.”
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