After each suffering losses Thursday in the first round of playoffs, the Yukon’s curling rinks prevailed to reach the finals in the Arctic Winter Games at the Whitehorse Curling Club on Friday.
In the end, the Yukon’s junior male team defeated Alberta North 8-4 for gold and the Yukon’s junior female rink lost 8-3 to N.W.T. for silver.
The Yukon’s male rink, led by skip David Aho, had actually lost to Alberta 9-5 the day before the gold medal match.
“We were just more prepared today,” said Aho. “We were a little flat coming out yesterday and I think it was all a little mental. We had some time off. We got back into it today and were ready and well prepared.”
“These are young guys and it’s a learning curve,” said Yukon junior male coach Wade Scoffin. “They played really well and maybe there was a lack of preparation yesterday to not be quite as focused in. That showed when Alberta got a lead early on in the game (yesterday) and our guys weren’t ready to be able to respond to that.
“Today we were in a situation where it was much closer through the early parts of the game and slowly crawled our way into the lead.”
It was the fourth straight time the Yukon and Alberta North met in the finals of the Arctic Games, now having won two golds each.
Though it was Aho’s first time representing the Yukon at the Games, it was his fourth time competing in them. A native of Yellowknife, Aho won three consecutive bronzes at the 2006, 2008 and 2010 Arctic Games as a part of Team N.W.T.
Also on the team were Kurtis Hills, Ryan Burke and Dawson City’s Spencer Wallace.
The turning point of the final was when the Yukon scored three in the eighth end. Alberta North decided to shake hands after the ninth.
“We got some good rock positioning and got a chance to put some pressure on them to make tough shots,” said Aho of the eighth. “If they didn’t make them perfect then they got into some trouble.
“I’m excited and just feeling good. I had a good game out there. We all had a really good time. Everyone had fun.”
The Yukon’s junior female team, led by skip Kelly Mahoney, were all first-time competitors at the Games. In fact, it was their first competition together, while three out of four of their opponents in the final had just recently returned from competing together at the Canadian junior championships.
“For our first Arctic Winter Games and our first competition with this team, it’s an amazing feeling to know that we played that well against all these other places and that we can beat people our age because we usually play adults,” said Mahoney.
“It wasn’t a great game, but we had fun as a team. We didn’t execute very well, but it was still great to play.”
The Yukon lost 9-6 to N.W.T. the previous day, forcing the rink to take the long route to the final. The team defeated Alberta North 10-8 in the semifinal to reach the gold medal game.
The Yukon rink, which includes Bailey Horte, Kelsey Meger and Sian Molloy, beat N.W.T. 12-3 in their first Game at the start of last week.
“They just played really awesome the whole week,” said Yukon female coach Rhonda Horte. “We’re all really proud of them. They really played as a team and focused on our team dynamics. When they were having fun and playing as a team, they really noticed how well they played.
“Today they didn’t play bad, but N.W.T. came up with some big shots. The girls kept putting pressure on the team, but they kept making their last shots.”
“We’re really good playing as a team,” said Mahoney. “We have a really good dynamics and we have super strong hits. We like to play open games so we play with lots of hits. Our team just gets along and our sweepers are amazing.”
In addition to three previous Arctic Games playing for N.W.T., Aho has a wealth of experience on the sheets. He has curled at seven junior national championships, which is a record. Last month, while representing the Yukon for the first time at the junior nationals, he helped Thomas Scoffin’s team bring back the first winning record (7-5) for a Yukon rink since 1997.
While the rest of the rink is new to the Arctic Games, Hills curled on Team Scoffin at the 2011 Canada Winter Games last February in Halifax.
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org