Skip Bayly Scoffin pushes off during a practice game at Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre in Whitehorse on Dec. 15. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Yukon team prepares for 2020 Canadian Junior Curling Championships

“We’re just going to have fun and compete and get some more experience for the younger girls”

The Whitehorse Curling Club hosted the Yukon Junior Championships on Dec. 14 and 15, and the lone team to register — a girls team made up of Bayly Scoffin, Neisha Snider, Taylor Legge and Dannika Mikkelsen — now knows officially to prepare for the 2020 Canadian Junior Curling Championships in January.

Sue Ross is going into her third season coaching the team and said this will be some of the team’s stiffest competition to date.

“Our first major competition was the 2018 Arctic Winter Games in Fort Smith, and then the following year we competed in the (local) league and attended the Under 18 Canadian Championships in Sherwood Park, Alta.,” said Ross. “That brought us to this year, where we’re going to be competing at the under 21 (level) — which is a big step up for us.”

Ross said the team is upbeat about the bonspiel and noted the value of the off-ice portion of curling.

“I think they’re really quite excited about it,” said Ross. “The neat thing about curling is when you get down there in these bonspiels, it’s competitive on the ice but very social off the ice. It’s another opportunity for them to make new friends and learn about how the other teams across Canada compete and curl and some of the strategies they use.”

Team Yukon ranges in age from 13 to 17, but has benefited from all the experience around them through playing in the curling club’s league.

“That’s the neat thing about curling,” said Ross. “It’s all ages and everyone is quite supportive of other teams and they really have helped out the girls a lot during league play.”

Scoffin, the team’s skip, also has the benefit of multiple family members who’ve competed at the national level. Her brother, Thomas Scoffin, and father, Wade Scoffin, have both curled for the Yukon at the Brier, and her mother, Helen Strong, has curled for the Yukon at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

“Well we’re not expecting to win, obviously,” said Bayly about what the feeling on the team is before the nationals. “We’re just going to have fun and compete and get some more experience for the younger girls.”

She added she’s happy to pass all the knowledge she’s picked up from her family.

“I curl with my brother almost weekly on Thursday nights and I’ve grown up at the curling club,” said Bayly. “My whole life I’ve been surrounded by curling and getting all the facts and getting hints and stuff from my dad. He’s coached me before and so has my mom; it’s really great to have that experience.”

While a win and punching a ticket to the worlds in Russia might seem like a stretch, Ross said the plan is to take it one end at a time.

“We’re going to go in with a one-end-at-a-time kind of attitude,” said Ross. “I’d love to be able to win and go to Russia, but that’s probably a bit of a long shot. But if we play one end at a time and we make our shots, curling is a pretty even game in that sense. If you make your shots, you’re going to get points.”

Ross said the team has grown tremendously over the last three seasons.

“They all started as very much beginners. We had one player, our skip, who had played in the past. … Now, they’ve advanced to the point where they can at least compete — they may not win — but they can compete with other teams that are at the top of their game in their different provinces and territories.”

The 2020 Canadian Junior Curling Championships are Jan. 18 to 26 in Lanley, B.C.

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at john.hopkinshill@yukon-news.com

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