For the first time in 15 years, a junior curling rink from the Yukon has returned from the nationals in the black.
Yukon’s Team Scoffin went 7-5 to finish sixth at the 2012 M&M Meat Shops Canadian Junior Championships last week in Napanee, Ontario.
“We had a great week as a team. The boys played really well in front of me,” said skip Thomas Scoffin. “We had a couple of tough ones and we were only two games out of the playoffs. We played some really good games this week and we feel we performed really well in every game.”
Both the win-loss record and the final placement marks the best results for the Whitehorse-based rink in six consecutive appearances at the championships, leaving with 5-7 records the last two years.
It is also the best record by a Yukon junior rink – boys or girls – since 1997 when Wyatt Redlin’s team went 7-5, finishing in a five-way tie for third after the round-robin.
On board with Scoffin were third Mitch Young, second David Aho (a newcomer to the team), lead Will Mahoney and coach Wade Scoffin.
So what made this year’s result the best yet?
“The experience together we’ve had as a team. We’ve been playing together for a long time – the three of us,” said the skip. “And Dave (Aho) has been to nationals even more than we have. So experience is a factor. We know how to deal with adversity.
“The guys played really well in front of me and they made my life easy. I’m really proud of how we did and how those guys played.”
In addition to taking in a personal best placement, Team Scoffin defeated two of the four teams to advance into the playoffs. Early in the championships, the Yukon rink defeated the eventual silver-winning Northern Ontario 7-5 with a big four-point 10th end for the win. They finished the eight-day competition with a 5-4 win over bronze-winning Manitoba. The team also ran roughshod over Quebec at 7-1, defeated Newfoundland 7-6 with a point in the 11th end, and beat N.W.T. 10-8, coming back from 5-1, scoring two in the 11th end for the win.
“We had a really good game against (gold medal winning) Alberta, but they pulled out the win in that one,” said Scoffin. “It’s a long week and we play a lot of games. We’re just grinding away every win and it feels really good to come out on top like that.”
Thomas was the youngest curler to skip a team in the junior nationals at the age of 12 in 2007. At 17 years of age, he is eligible to compete in three more junior championships. Over the seven appearances, his team has registered a total of 24 wins, which puts Scoffin in fifth on the all-time wins list.
A personal best result at the junior nationals is the second significant accomplishment for Thomas in 2012. Less than a month ago, he won bronze for Canada at the Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria. There he skipped a mixed team of some of Canada’s best, including Derek Oryniak, who won bronze for Manitoba on Saturday.
“It felt good to have that experience going in (to the junior nationals), playing different teams and at a high level,” said Scoffin of the Youth Olympics.
Team Koltun missing chemistry
Although still getting ice-time individually, a lack of team play helped prevent Yukon’s Team Koltun from reaching its potential at the junior nationals.
The Yukon rink, which was also making its sixth straight appearance at the championships, finished with a 4-8 record to place11th.
“We weren’t performing as well as we know we could have,” said skip Sarah Koltun. “It could have been because we haven’t spent as much time together as we had in past years, and being used to playing together six days a week. It was difficult being away from each other so much.
“Everything seemed so normal when we were playing together this week, but this week something just seemed a bit off.”
The rink managed to play a couple bonspiels together prior to the championships, but has spent most of the season apart. Koltun is studying at Trinity Western University in Langley, B.C., third Chelsea Duncan and second Linea Eby are both at the University of Alberta, while lead Jenna Duncan still attends high school in Whitehorse.
“We had a different challenge this year, which was three of the girls are out of the territory at university so they didn’t get as much playing time together as they normally would,” said coach Lindsay Moldowan. “We did have high expectations because of what we had done last year. But the lack of playing together shined through.
“But we did have a lot of close games against some of the top teams. What I was happy about as a coach was at the beginning of a lot of games we got down in points and then the girls managed to fight back and get back in the game.”
A look back at the team’s previous performance makes last week’s results a little harder to swallow. At the 2011 championships, Team Koltun went 6-6 to finish seventh. It was the best result the Yukon had at the junior nationals since 1999 when Nicole Baldwin’s team from Whitehorse also produced a 6-6 record.
While near the bottom of the standings, the Koltun team proved they were still a force to be reckoned with, suffering narrow one-point losses to all three medalists. The Whitehorse rink lost 8-7 to bronze-winning B.C., 8-7 to silver’s Manitoba and 7-6 to Alberta, the eventual gold medal winners.
Koltun also went 7-5 over Northern Ontario and defeated Newfoundland 6-5 with three individual points in the last three ends.
Unfortunately, after a strong start, Team Koltun ended the championships with a string of five consecutive losses.
“Every game was well fought. They played well. It was always one or two key shots in a game that would turn the game around for the other team,” said Moldowan. “Everyone who is a curler knows that those games happen. We happened to have bad luck and it happened one after another it seemed.”
Thomas Scoffin and Koltun have represented the Yukon at the last three Arctic Winter Games, going back to 2006, winning silver and gold respectably in 2010. Both rinks have also competed on behalf of the territory at the last two Canada Winter Games in 2007 and 2011, with Koltun snatching fifth last year.
The Yukon will have some new blood on the sheets next month at the Arctic Winter Games in Whitehorse.
Representing the Yukon in the junior male division will be a rink coached by Thomas Scoffin and skipped by David Aho, including Kurtis Hills, Ryan Burke and Dawson City’s Spencer Wallace.
Aho, who is fairly new to the Yukon, brings a ton of experience to the team. Originally from Yellowknife, Aho represented the N.W.T. at the Arctic Winter Games in 2006, 2008 and 2010. He also curled at seven junior national championships, which is a record.
While the rink is new, Hills also has major Games experience, curling on Team Scoffin at the 2011 Canada Winter Games last February in Halifax.
Representing the Yukon in the junior female division is a rink skipped by Kelly Mahoney, with teammates Bailey Horte, Kelsey Meger and Sian Molloy.
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org