It may be a long, long way to Tipperary, but it’s also a long way to the junior curling nationals.
Last weekend, two Whitehorse curling rinks began the season with hopes of returning to the Canadian Junior Curling Championship in the New Year.
Competing at the North Hill Juvenile Cash Bonspiel in Calgary, Whitehorse’s Team Scoffin, headed by skip Thomas Scoffin, finished second while Whitehorse’s girls’ team, Team Koltun – playing in the same draw – had four close matches, but left with a 1-3 record.
The bonspiel had 11 teams entered for curlers 17-years-old and younger.
“It felt good to be one of the best teams there,” said Scoffin. “It’s good to know how much we improved from last year.”
In the finals, Team Scoffin faced Alberta’s Team Parcels, made up from curlers from Calgary and Red Deer. They included two players that, last year, narrowly defeated Scoffin at a different Calgary bonspiel. Like last year’s match, it went down to the last stone.
Tied 5-5 after eight ends and with the extra rock, Scoffin failed to knock-out a Parcels rock on the eight-foot ring for the win, sealing the match.
“We had a great opportunity to make the shot, but the last rock over curled a little bit,” said Team Scoffin coach Wade Scoffin. “We got the sweepers on it, but it was not firm enough take it out of play.”
Team Scoffin advanced to the finals with an 8-3 win over Airdrie, Alberta’s Team Roy, which was beaten by Team Kulton.
Playing their third game of the day on Saturday, Team Koltun, led by skip Sarah Koltun, defeated Team Roy 9-6, after two losses earlier in the day, including a 8-6 loss to Parcels to begin the bonspiel.
In their final match on Sunday against Calgary’s Team Conlon, Team Koltun almost pushed the contest into an extra end but a take-out shot by Conlon thwarted the effort and Koltun lost 8-6. Conlon went on the win the C division.
Leading up to the North Hill bonspiel the two Whitehorse teams, and some other Yukon curlers, spent a week at a leadership clinic Antigonish, Nova Scotia, before going to the National Training Centre in Calgary where they worked with Canada’s High Performance coaches, spending a few hours on the ice with Canada’s Olympic coaches and other top-notch instructors.
“It’s a good starting point for the development of the season,” said Wade. “One thing I think curlers are really terrific about is being able to do a lot of giving back in various ways, whether they go and talk at schools or they do a (clinic) on the ice.”
While at the National Training Centre, the Yukoners underwent video analysis to improve technique, which helped in the bonspiel, said Scoffin.
“We learned a lot about our deliveries and that helped us a lot for the weekend,” said Scoffin.
“In Nova Scotia, at the leadership program, it helped us learn about what kind of leaders and learners we are, how we react differently to things. So that helped too on the mental side.”
In last year’s Canadian Junior Curling Championship in Salmon Arm, BC, not only did both Whitehorse rinks exceed expectations with a handful of wins, both teams had award winners.
After coming home winless the previous year, Team Koltun won five of their matches, one short of a .500 record. The highlight for Team Koltun was an 8-6 win over Manitoba, which was not only the defending champion, but the eventual winner as well.
Before leaving, Team Koltun lead Jenna Duncan was awarded the Fair Play Award by the tournament’s officials.
At the nationals, Team Scoffin returned with a 3-9 record, racking up wins against NWT, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan.
In addition to the boys’ success on the sheets, Wade was selected by other national coaches at the championships for the National Coaching Award from the Canadian Curling Association.
In addition to their skip, playing on Team Scoffin are Will Mahoney, Nick Koltun and Mitchell Young. Koltun and Duncan are joined by Chelsea Duncan, and Linea Eby on the girls team.
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