Whitehorse curlers make playoffs at mixed doubles trials

Four Whitehorse curlers were part of an inaugural event that could grow in popularity in the coming years.

Four Whitehorse curlers were part of an inaugural event that could grow in popularity in the coming years.

Jody and Robert Smallwood, and Mitch Young and Chelsea Duncan, competed at the Canadian Mixed Doubles Curling Trials for the world championships in Leduc, Alberta, from Thursday to Sunday.

“It’s really interesting the way the game is played, and for spectators it’s a lot more interesting than the normal game,” said Robert. “I think for smaller towns and smaller clubs, this might be the new wave of curling – mixed doubles – and it might take off.”

Twelve provincial/territorial representative teams, plus 20 open entries competed for a spot at the world championship at the trials.

The Smallwoods, a husband and wife team, reached the quarterfinal. Young and Duncan, who are finishing their last season as juniors, made it to the Round of 12 – one round before the quarters.

“It was a fun event to be a part of – the first one,” said Young. “They learned a lot from the first one and they are going to make some changes for next year. I was glad to be at the first one and hopefully be back numerous times.

“I’m glad that Chelsea and I did well. I think it was a good showing for the Yukon with the Smallwoods going to the second round of the playoffs. They played well and they’re really nice people, so I was glad to have some Yukon faces down there cheering us on and us cheering them on.”

The Smallwoods went 4-3 in the round-robin and defeated Saskatchewan’s Jason and Colleen Ackerman 10-5 to reach the quarterfinal.

They then lost 8-7 to a Saskatchewan’s Dean Hicke and Chantelle Eberle in the quarterfinal on Sunday. Hicke and Eberle represented Canada at the World Mixed doubles Championships last year in Turkey, where they went 8-0 in the round-robin before getting knocked out by the Swedes in the quarterfinal.

“Because of the way the rocks are placed to start with, and the way the rules are, that you can’t take anything out of play for the first three delivered stones … There ended up being a lot of rocks around the button, around the four-foot area,” said Robert. “They just ended up blocking me right off. I couldn’t even throw a hail maker at the end … There was no possible shot for me.”

The Smallwoods were the team directly representing the Yukon, having won a territorial playdown earlier this year.

Young was skip for Yukon boys team for his first time in February, finishing with a 5-4 record to place ninth overall.

He won the inaugural mixed doubles competition at the junior nationals with Nova Scotia’s Sarah Sears. The mini-spiel was a competition for those not in the playoffs of the junior championships.

“Since I got the gold medal for the mixed doubles at the junior nationals, I was talking (the Canadian Curling Association director) Danny Lamoureux about the mixed doubles trials in Leduc,” said Young. “He said there were a couple … spots left, so he offered me a position to play. I accepted and called up Chelsea because she just lives in Edmonton, so I could just drive up to Edmonton and pick her up.”

Young and Duncan, who both turned 21 last week, went 6-1 in the round-robin of their pool. Their one round-robin loss was the Hicke and Eberle, who then lost in the semis.

The Young-Duncan duo was eliminated in the playoffs with a 9-3 loss to Nova Scotia’s Mark Dacey and Heather Smith-Dacey.

Though it was Young and Duncan’s first time competing together, they have known each other a long time. Both curlers have represented the Yukon at the Junior Canadian Curling Championships the last seven years.

Duncan played third for Team Koltun in the junior girls draw this year. The team had its best ever finish in February at the championships, placing fourth after losing a tiebreaker to Ontario to get into the semifinal.

Robert has represented the Yukon at the Canadian Junior Curling Championships in the early 1990s and went on to play in two Briers.

Jody represented the Whitehorse Curling Club at the Dominion Curling Club Championships last November in Scarborough, Ont.

The first World Mixed Curling Championships were held in 2008 in Finland. The 2013 World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship will be in Fredericton, New Brunswick, and will be the first hosted by Canada.

Quebec’s Robert Desjardins and Isabelle Neron won Canada’s spot at the worlds on Sunday.

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