Fifteen years after last playing skip for a Yukon team at the Brier, Whitehorse’s Jon Solberg is back for another go.
Solberg and his rink won the Yukon Men’s Curling Championship at the Whitehorse Curling Club on Jan. 15.
With the title Team Solberg will represent Yukon at the Tim Hortons Brier, the national men’s championship, in St. John’s, N.L., March 4-12.
“I’m feeling fantastic right now — kind of in shock,” said Solberg. “We had a good weekend, a couple ups and a couple of downs, but the boys played really well through it all. When things weren’t looking too good, we dug deep and found the ability to come back and persevere, so I’m very proud of everything we’ve done.”
Dug deep, they did. Team Solberg had to win their final two games to capture the title.
They won the final game, in the final end, on the final rock, scoring one in the 10th end for a 7-6 win over Team Pierce, led by skip Brent Pierce.
The Solberg team, which includes third Craig Kochan, second Ray Mikkelsen and lead Darrin Fredrickson, produced a 7-2 record over nine games at the championship, with both losses coming against Team Pierce.
Pierce, a free agent player from New Westminster, B.C., was joined by Yukoners Wade Scoffin playing third, Steve Fecteau second and Clint Ireland lead.
The Pierce rink eliminated two-time defending champ Robert Smallwood 7-3 on Jan. 14, in the same draw that saw Solberg eliminate 2014 champ Pat Paslawski 8-3. Then came three straight Solberg-Pierce match-ups, with Pierce winning the first 8-4. Solberg took the second 11-5 — to avoid elimination — before the final game.
St. John’s will mark Solberg’s fifth trip to the Brier. He skipped for Yukon at the Brier 2002 on a team that included Mikkelsen and Scoffin. He played third for Team Northern Ontario in 2005 while living in the province for five years.
Solberg curled on a joint N.W.T.-Yukon team at the 2009 Brier and last year played third for Smallwood’s rink at the national championship.
“I’m very fortunate to have been there so many times and to have played with some very accomplished curlers,” said Solberg.
Though skip of his team, Solberg doesn’t spend much time calling the game from the house. He sweeps his teammates’ shots before throwing the final rocks for his rink each end.
“I’m the youngest guy on the team … so I figured I’d sweep six rocks and then I’ll throw two,” said Solberg, 45. “It works really well with Craig calling the game in the house and throwing third. And Ray comes down when Craig is throwing his two rocks, and Ray is a very accomplished skip as well … so I had the confidence to have Ray call the game in the house.
“We were committed to it the whole weekend and it worked out for us.”
The Yukon men’s championship featured the largest field in years with seven teams competing. It was a different story for the women’s championship, which was scrubbed after only one team entered.
Team Koltun, led by Sarah Koltun, was the only to enter and was acclaimed champion. The team, which includes third Chelsea Duncan, second Patty Wallingham and lead Jenna Duncan, will compete at the 2017 Scotties Tournament Of Hearts in St. Catharines, Ont., Feb. 18-26.
It will be the Koltun team’s third appearance at the Scotties, the women’s curling nationals.
“We’re very excited to represent the Yukon again,” said Koltun in a recent interview. “It’s what we aim to do every season we compete.”
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org